Public will have input in choosing next superintendent

Felecia Gomez-Walker
Felecia Gomez-Walker

St. Charles Parish residents can have input in who they’d like to see as their next school superintendent.

Just visit www.stcharles.k12.la.us and answer a five-question online survey. Dec. 14 is the deadline to submit comments.

“We found over the years that the position of superintendent in the school district is an important position that responds to the public,” said School Board member John Smith, who is coordinating the job search as he did when Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker was named to the position five years ago. “It works better when the public is involved in helping to select the superintendent.”

Gomez-Walker announced her retirement effective July 1, but will stay on to facilitate filling the position until end of the school year. Smith said the board plans on naming her replacement at its March 20 board meeting.

In addition to the survey, a Community Advisory Committee will be named consisting of nearly 20 members representing a cross-section of stakeholders throughout the parish. They will include students, employees, clergy, business and industry representatives and a school system retiree.

Smith said the survey will play a critical role in who is named superintendent of one of the best-rated school districts in Louisiana.

“Hopefully, from those questions we’ll be able to develop the profile of the person we need to lead this school district,” he said. “It is still the board’s responsibility to select the superintendent, but the public should have some input in that process. We’re going beyond what we did last time because we’re able to reach out electronically to a broader base of the public so anybody who wishes to be involved in the process can go online and give their input.”

“We’re one of the most aggressive school systems in the country and, one as accomplished as this, deserves someone who can compete on a national scale. We want it so our students can compete with anyone in or out of country.”- John Smith

With survey results in hand, the board and committee will factor the public’s desired qualities and attributes in desired candidates.

The committee’s first meeting is tentatively scheduled Jan. 16 at the School Board office in Luling.

The School Board also has expanded its search for candidates from a regional to national one.

Once it has narrowed them down, the committee will meet with finalists in a question-and-answer session to further compile input for the board.

“Selecting a superintendent is one of the most important tasks, if not the most important task, that is carried out by a school board,” Smith said. “We have developed a well-thought out, transparent process to include input from all stakeholders.”

Board President Al Suffrin agreed with the importance of naming the head of the school district, calling it one of the board’s biggest responsibilities.

“It’s one of the employees that we’re responsible for, and we’re committed to selecting the best and brightest,” Suffrin said. “The school system belongs to the St. Charles Parish community so we want all the stakeholders at the table in that process.”

Applicants have until Jan. 11 to apply for the position.

Suffrin said they’re advertising the job nationally, particularly in education publications.

Smith added the board wants a national perspective in this search.

“We want to make sure whoever wants to be superintendent can compete on the national level,” he said. “It doesn’t eliminate local candidates, but we want candidates to be comparable on the national level. We’re one of the most aggressive school systems in the country and, one as accomplished as this, deserves someone who can compete on a national scale. We want it so our students can compete with anyone in or out of country.”

2013 Search Timeline

  • April of 2013: Board begins its regional search for a new superintendent after Dr. Rodney Lafon announces his resignation. Lafon served 18 years in the position.
  • June of 2013: The superintendent search narrowed to three finalists, including Felecia Gomez-Walker of St. Charles Parish, Rick Williams of Texas and Joey Comeaux of Napoleonville. Interviews are held.
  • July 2, 2013: The School Board takes it final vote. Gomez-Walker is named superintendent.
  • November of this year: After five years in the position, Gomez-Walker announces her retirement effective July 1, 2019. The board initiates its national search for superintendent.

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