The search for a new superintendent for St. Charles Parish Public Schools is on after Dr. Rodney Lafon publicly announced his resignation after 18 years in the position.
"Having served as Superintendent for the past 18 years, and been in education more than 38 years, I have decided that it is time for me to move on to a new chapter," Lafon said.
Although the 62-year-old Lafon told some St. Charles Parish School Board members in early April of his intention to retire at the end of this school year, they could not publicly release the information until he made his official announcement at the April 24 School Board meeting. Although that gives the school system only about nine weeks to find a replacement, School Board members were able to get a head start and get the search process going immediately after his announcement.
The search to replace Lafon will be spearheaded by District 5 Board Member John Smith, who has been on the School Board for the past 30 years.
Smith said he is happy with the job Lafon has done and hopes to find someone who can step in and keep the school system heading in the right direction.
"He has worked hard putting the school system in a very good position financially, curriculum-wise and facilities-wise. He is leaving the school system in good shape," he said.
Smith is a consultant for McPherson and Jacobsen, a nationwide agency that provides executive recruitment and development support. This year he has already helped place superintendents in the Alexandria and Rapides parishes school systems and is currently assisting in finding a superintendent for Caddo Parish.
District 2 Board Member Melinda Bernard said the school system is lucky to have someone with Smithís experience already in place.
"The search for superintendent is going to go pretty well," she said. "(Smith) has given us a really strong outline to follow in finding the best candidates for the job. Weíre fortunate to have someone on the board with that background experience."
Immediately after Lafonís announcement, the School Board began to plan and place advertisements for the position in local media.
"Our human resources department has crafted something that will go to the newspapers for publication," he said.
At this point, the School Board is focusing on regional candidates, including those already within the school system.
"I think the board will potentially want to do a limited search that will limit itself to the state or region," Smith said. "I am certain that there will be candidates in the system who are interested. They ought to at least be interviewed. They have worked very hard to bring the system to where it is and they deserve the respect of being granted an interview."
St. Charles Parish Public Schools was ranked the eighth best school district in the state last year and both Destrehan and Hahnville high schools received their first "A" ratings last year.
Although Bernard said she would be open to promoting from within the school system, she is optimistic that applicants from other school districts will also interview.
"We do have some strong people within our system, but I am not going to speculate on promoting within," she said. "They will have the opportunity to make their case on why they would be a good person for the position. We also have some strong people in the state and it will be interesting to see if some of those people I have met will apply."
Lafon himself was promoted from within the system after serving as a band teacher at Albert Cammon Middle School, principal at Allemands Elementary and as advisor to previous superintendent Tom Toco.
The application period will be open for 30 days and is set to expire on May 31.
"In the meantime we are putting together an advisory committee that will be able to give us some feedback on what is best for our system and other considerations," Bernard said.
The advisory committee will be made up of representatives from different parish communities.
"We are looking to have someone from business and industry and each board member will ask a parent from their constituency. We will also have a principal representative, a teacher representative and perhaps even a member of the clergy," Bernard said.
Although the advisory committee will provide input on candidates for superintendent, the final decision on Lafonís replacement will come from the School Board.
Bernard said the board is intent on choosing the school districtís next superintendent by the July 2 School Board meeting.
"I think that the board can have a superintendent on board or at least selected by that time," Smith said.
During his 18 years as superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, Lafon has presided over numerous curriculum, communication, construction, technology, finance and community relations projects.
"I could have not done this without the support of the School Board, administration, teachers, parents, students, staff, community and business and industry throughout these years," Lafon said. "It has been an honor to serve as their Superintendent. I remain committed to the school system; this place will always have a special place in my heart, and I will offer my total support for a smooth transition."