Community members question second EBR supt. candidate

Bernard Taylor
Bernard Taylor

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - He applied in the first search, but his resume never made it past the application pile.  Now, Bernard Taylor is one of two finalists in the search for superintendent in East Baton Rouge Parish.  Taylor is currently superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools.

"I have not seen anything that would be daunting," Taylor said, addressing members of VIPS (Volunteers in Public Schools) Wednesday afternoon.  In the same manner it offered one-on-one meetings with the other candidate Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin, VIPS also sponsored a luncheon for Taylor.

Touring schools and talking to the public is all part of the interview process for Taylor.  He says he's not here simply looking for a job.  "I am not looking for a job.  I am not.  I am looking for an opportunity to serve in a community that wants to make sure all of its children are successful, academically and as people," he told the audience.

Those who volunteer in the school system were able to have their questions answered directly by Taylor.  For example, one former principal asked what he thinks about the voucher proposal by the governor.

"Am I in support of vouchers?  My answers no.  I'm not sure, even with a voucher that all children will be served well."

Taylor said reform always sounds like a good idea, until it has a face.  He says people are for it, until it affects someone they know: a church member, an aunt, a friend.  Taylor posed this example, "Miss Mary's been in the lunch room for 35 years. Well what does Miss Mary do?  I don't know, but she's been there and we have to make sure she's there 35 more."

And there were question about areas wanting to break away from the EBR district to form another school system.  To that Taylor said people cannot allow East Baton Rouge to become a district of last resort.  Meaning a district that serves the most difficult kids.  He says if students are lost, magnet programs, gifted/talented programs, foreign language, performing arts and even athletics become hard to maintain.  He says those are things cut first when the student population dwindles.

Despite some board members saying they lost the best candidate during the first superintendent search, Taylor says he applied for the position again because he believes he is the match for the district.

"I'm hoping through conversation today, my interview tonight, they see I am the person that can lead this district in the way the community wants and children need."

Thursday night the school board will have a special meeting, where they are supposed to vote on both superintendent candidates and decide who will become the next leader of schools in EBR.

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