With St. George abandoning the EBR ship and all of the talk about the implications for schools, it may be easy to lose sight of the fact that in just seven months East Baton Rouge Parish Schools will have a new superintendent at the helm. Warren Drake announced his retirement almost a year ago and in May the board said they would start the process of identifying a new leader. But not much has happened since then.
This Thursday, the board will vote to hire a search firm. Only two firms submitted proposals to do the work, and that should be a signal about how insiders feel this process is going to go.
Let’s take a look at the two firms that did throw their hats in the ring.
JG Consulting is a search firm out of Texas that has conducted a number of pretty standard superintendent searches by their admission. Remember for a minute that this is the kind of search that in the past has landed Baton Rouge the likes of Bernard Taylor and other recycled candidates who move from district to district every few years. JG Consulting’s President and CEO James Guerra formerly worked for PROACT Search firm, despite the fact that he no longer lists it on his LinkedIn profile. Why doesn’t he list it there you may ask? We’d have to ask him, but maybe he’s trying to create a little distance from his former boss PROACT co-founder Gary Solomon who was sentenced (along with the superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett) to 84 months in prison for defrauding Chicago Public Schools in a massive kickback scheme.
JG Consulting put in a bid for $25,000 which on its face seems like a bargain particularly when compared with $50,000 proposed by competitor SSA Consultants. But should this “affordable option” raise red flags in light of recent coverage of private search firms structured similarly to PROACT and its sister companies, where they help place a superintendent but then sell contracts back to that same district? These arrangements seem to create at the very least the appearance of some type of conflict.
Local firm SSA Consultants also submitted a proposal to lead the search. They are well-known local players who have been involved in a lot of executive searches and strategic planning for organizations throughout the city. The firm added Franklin Associates and Bayard Management Group to the proposal. What’s troubling about this is that it includes Bayard president James Gilmore. You may recall Gilmore resigning his role as assistant chief administrative officer in Mayor Broome’s administration after the accusations of mismanagement around BRAVE. One wonders why respected firms like SSA Consultants and Franklin Associates would align themselves with Gilmore as a partner.
When these two groups make their presentations Thursday night, residents of the remaining Baton Rouge would be wise to keep an eye on the selection process. A decision like this one and the subsequent search shouldn’t fly under the radar.