One of the two candidates favored by a group of business leaders to be the next superintendent of East Baton Rouge Schools failed to advance to the final round in a vote of the school board Thursday night.
Leaders of the group Business for Bold Leadership say they were surprised that their top pick for the post, Marshall Tuck—a charter school advocate who turned around one of the lowest-performing school districts in California—didn’t receive the necessary votes from the board to return for a final interview.
However, they say they support the two candidates the board did choose as finalists—Leslie Brown, an administrator in Broward County, Florida, and Nakia Towns, an administrator in Hamilton County, Tennessee.
“We thought Tuck had a chance, so I guess we’re surprised with the outcome,” says Richard Lipsey, who co-founded Business for Bold Leadership early this year with Mike Polito. “But they have two very capable candidates and we’re anxious to see how the school board reacts to face-to-face and more lengthy discussions with the finalists.”
Lipsey says he doesn’t consider the vote a defeat per se, since Towns was also high on the group’s list. He declined to comment on whether some school board members, who previously had said they would support Tuck, didn’t vote for him.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, meanwhile, which has been doing its own due diligence on the candidates, says it is extremely pleased with both finalists and thinks either would be a strong leader for EBR Schools.
“I think the important thing is that out of the best pool we’ve had in years, they picked two incredibly strong candidates,” BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp says. “They have two excellent candidates and how they make that choice is going to be a really difficult decision.”
Knapp says BRAC is impressed with the resumes, recommendations and interviews of both Brown and Towns. Also impressive, he says, is that both were cohorts in Chiefs for Change, a nonprofit organization that helps prepare and train executives to lead state and local school systems.
“This is a prestigious program and the cohort of those who go through it is small, “Knapp says. “These are strong, visionary leaders for education in America.”
Both candidates will come to Baton Rouge for in-person interviews with the board. Dates have not yet been scheduled.