Earlier this week, we reported that only two firms submitted proposals to lead the search process for East Baton Rouge Parish’s next superintendent of schools. Neither of the firms have a sparkling record. JG Consulting is led by James Guerra, who oversaw the search for Barbara Byrd-Bennet, the former Chicago superintendent who defrauded the district of millions and later went to jail. SSA Consultants has local experience, but baggage as well – the firm’s proposal includes James Gilmore, a former assistant chief administrative officer in Mayor Broome’s administration who resigned after accusations of mismanagement.
Baton Rouge, is this the best we can do?
Indulge us a moment for a brief thought experiment: Organization A is made up of roughly 100 people, with an annual budget of around $30 million. Organization B oversees more than 40,000 people and has a budget of more than $400 million. Which one of these organizations has a better, more thorough process for selecting its CEO?
Absent context, you’d guess Organization B, right? Its budget is 10x that of Organization A, and it oversees 400x more people. The problem with that assumption is that Organization B is the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools and Organization A is LSU football.
When LSU football has a coaching vacancy, the powers-that-be scour the nation for the best and brightest coaches available, making “godfather” offers to poach the best talent away from rival programs. As fans, we demand nothing less than complete and utter commitment to this end. What the Tigers want, the Tigers get.
But when the Superintendent of Baton Rouge schools opens up for the first time in years, the process looks very different. We’re not proactively planning a recruitment of the best and brightest – instead, we’re outsourcing the search to firms with dubious records of success.
Now, we know that this analogy is an imperfect one. LSU football is a multimillion dollar profit engine, and big-time college football is as competitive about coaching talent as any pro sport. A public school superintendent, even one in a district as large as Baton Rouge, is never going to receive the same public interest or financial compensation.
That being said, we’d like to believe that the person in charge of educating 40,000 students, the person whose work will have a significant impact on the future of our city and state’s economic future, would get even a fraction of the attention that the search for LSU’s next football coach (if Coach O ever leaves the job). That’s not happening today, and it needs to.