BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge School Board met Thursday night to vote on which candidate should be our next school superintendent. The two semi-finalists in the race were Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin and Bernard Taylor. It took board members 15 minutes to make their decision, unanimously selecting Dr. Bernard Taylor as new superintendent. They will begin negotiating his contract Friday.
Within the first five minutes of the school board's special meeting, board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson made a nomination to select Dr. Taylor. When the roll was taken and all 11 board members voted yes, President Barbara Freiberg had a surprised look. "I'm taken off guard," she told the audience. "I think that means we are going to work to negotiate a contract for new superintendent."
Dr. Taylor says he was at choir rehearsal at his church in Grand Rapids, Michigan when he got the call. "It gave me time to reflect on not only being selected, but the task at hand," Taylor said.
Taylor says his interview Wednesday was his first ever visit to Louisiana. He says he's ready to trade in the cold temperatures for warmer weather. But that's not the only thing he will have to acclimate to.
"East Baton Rouge is significantly larger than Grand Rapids," said Taylor.
Until his academic leave in December, Taylor was the superintendent of 19,000 students in Grand Rapids. According to their website, that is the third largest district in Michigan. EBR is the second largest district in Louisiana, with just over 43,000 students.
Board members say they've been through a lot over the last couple months. There was bickering among the board. Community members say Dr. Herman Brister, the district's Chief Academic Officer, should have been the choice for superintendent.
"We had somebody in Baton Rouge that could've filled those shoes. I know this," said Pearl Porter.
Board member Craig Freeman said none of the first round of candidates were the best. After Dr. Samuel King turned down the boards offer for the position, a second search started.
"This board has been called everything from a monkey show to fractioned," said Vice-President Tarvald Smith.
This time around, Freeman says the man they've chosen is the one for job. Freeman points to Taylor's track record as proof, saying under his leadership 27 failing schools were turned around.
Dr. Taylor says he will be doing video conferencing and Skyping with staff to start working on his plans for EBR schools. His top goals include meeting with the state department to figure out how to bring success to the districts low-performing schools and making the $30 million in cuts to the school systems budget.