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3 out-of-town finalists move forward in search for next New Orleans superintendent

A meeting of the Orleans Parish School Board on Aug. 19, 2021.
Aubri Juhasz
A meeting of the Orleans Parish School Board on Aug. 19, 2021.

Three candidates, none of whom are from or have worked in New Orleans, advanced to the next round of the district’s superintendent search after its school board met for more than four hours of private discussion Tuesday.

Marshall Tuck, Avis Williams and André Wright will advance to next week’s public interview, which will take place Tuesday at 8 a.m. at the district’s central office on Westbend Parkway in Algiers.

Later in the day, candidates are expected to attend a meet-and-greet session at George Washington Carver High School on Higgins Boulevard in the Desire Area.

Marshall Tuck is the head of education recovery at Great Public Schools Now, a nonprofit focused on improving public schools in Los Angeles.

He began working in education in 2002 when he became the president and chief operating officer of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter management organization based in Los Angeles.

In 2007, he co-founded an organization managing some of the lowest-performing public schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to his resume. He campaigned to be California’s state superintendent of public instruction in 2014 and in 2018.

Avis Williams, a North Carolina native, is in her fifth year as superintendent of Selma City Schools in Selma, Alabama and previously served as deputy superintendent of schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Both districts are significantly smaller than New Orleans, which serves 44,000 students currently. Selma has approximately 3,000 public school students, and Tuscaloosa has less than 11,000.

Williams has spent her entire career in education, except the four years she served in the U.S. Army. She previously served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at schools in Alabama and North Carolina.

Andre Wright is senior vice president of educational transformation at MGT Consulting and recently served as chief academic officer for Aurora Public Schools in Aurora, Colorado which serves approximately 40,000 students.

Before that, Wright served as an assistant principal, principal and executive director for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta.

Wright started his career as a middle school language arts teacher in Dekalb County, Georgia and later served as an assistant principal in the same district.

None of the candidates have a professional connection to New Orleans, a clear request from many members of the community. Of the original 15 candidates, only three had ties to the city.

Board member Carlos Zervigon was the lone vote against the proposed list of finalists and cited the lack of local representation.

“We do have qualified educators in our community who could serve as superintendent, and it makes me uncomfortable that we don’t have anyone on this finalists list,” Zervigon said. “We do have three very strong educators, very highly qualified people [whom] I’m excited to invite to the city to meet them, but I will vote no.”

Candidates who advanced to the background check stage but were not selected as finalists include Jawan Brown-Alexander, Meria Carstarphen, Charles A. Grandson and Jermall Wright.

The district’s next superintendent is scheduled to be selected during a special board meeting on March 30 at 1 p.m.

New Orleans Public Schools superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. announced last June that he would not pursue a contract extension when his term expired in June 2022.

Since then the board has been searching for his replacement with the help of an independent search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s news coverage.

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