The Board of Education has announced the names of two finalists for the vacant superintendent of schools position – but neither of them is Franklin Walker, and that is not sitting well with some parents who support him.
On June 1 the school board announced through its web site that Dr. Debra Braithwaite and Dr. Marcia Lyles have made the short list for the superintendent post.
The two women were among several candidates who applied for the position, although a spokeswoman for the school board did not know how many total candidates applied. A principal with one of the firms that assisted with the search did not return three phone calls seeking the total number of candidates.
‘I trust the wisdom of majority of the elected board members.’ – Riaz Wahid
According to bios supplied by the school board last week, Braithwaite is currently serving as deputy superintendent of the Richland County School District in South Carolina, a position she has held for the last four years. The K-12 district has 23,000 students, according to Richland County.
Braithwaite, according to her bio, previously served five years as deputy superintendent of the Dayton, Ohio, school district, a system that had about 16,000 students, and was also an assistant superintendent in Cleveland for two years. She also worked in the New York City public school system for 26 years, where she taught at the sixth and seventh grade level and was an elementary school principal. While in New York, Braithwaite also worked as a deputy superintendent for curricular development.
Lyles, the second finalist, is already working as a school superintendent. Lyles, according to the bio supplied by the Board of Education, is currently in her third year as superintendent for the Christina School District in Delaware, which has about 17,000 students. Like Braithwaite, Lyles also has experience in the New York City school system, where she worked for 37 years. While in New York, Lyles worked as a deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, and was a regional superintendent, and a community superintendent of a K-8 district. She was also a high school principal and taught English at the high school level for a decade.
Braithwaite and Lyles were among 14 candidates who were interviewed by two consulting firms – West Hudson Associates and Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates – that were hired by the school board to assist with the superintendent search. The names of eight semi-finalists were then passed on to the Board of Education.
Last month, school board members invited six of the eight semi-finalists to Jersey City for interviews, after which the number of candidates was cut down to three people. These candidates went through another round of interviews with the board before Braithwaite and Lyles emerged as the two possibilities.
No Walker on short-short list
Acting Superintendent Walker applied for the permanent position. How far he made it in the search process is not, however, publically known.
Walker’s exclusion from the list of finalists has angered his backers, many of whom expressed support for his candidacy during a series of eight community meetings the Board of Education held on the superintendent search process.
At two of these meetings that were covered by the Reporter, several parents praised Walker’s leadership and said his candidacy for the permanent superintendent position should be given serious consideration. Parents also said they felt comfortable with Walker at the helm of the school system since he has already worked in the district, has experience with an urban school system, and is a Jersey City resident. Some parents said an out-of-state candidate would take more time to get up to speed and get adjusted to the Jersey City Public School District.
“They can do better than this,” said parent activist Riaz Wahid when asked what he thought of the two finalists. However, he added that he will keep an open mind regarding Braithwaite and Lyles. “The first impression is not great, but I trust the wisdom of the majority of the elected board members. It is going to be a big challenge to help this generation of youth. I am also very keen to know what the contract terms will be, like the duration of the contract, how much it will cost the tax payers in the event of no-cause or with-cause termination, what the performance bench marks will be, etc.”
Calling Walker’s exclusion as a finalist “so unfair,” Susan Curry, the Jersey City organizer for the Statewide Education Organizing Committee (SEOC), believes he was not given the consideration he deserved.
“How can Walker be out? Not only did they not include him [as a finalist], but I feel like they ignored all the things parents and the community said at those meetings.” SEOC, she said, may protest Walker’s exclusion from the list of finalists.
In a June 1 letter to the Board of Education, Curry raised specific questions about Lyles’ track record in the Christina School District.
In a three-page letter sent last week to the members of the school board, the commissioners of the Jersey City Employment and Training Program also expressed their support of Walker.
“Our Executive Director, Keith Davis, and members of this board have successfully worked with the interim superintendent in furthering [various programs] and we have been impressed with his knowledge, expertise, care, and leadership. We believe he is imminently qualified to reinvigorate and move the Jersey City Public Schools forward to achieving new excellence.”
The Jersey City Employment and Training Program runs several job and skill training programs for local high school students, dropouts, juvenile offenders, and teen parents.
The school board had no comment last week beyond the bios on Braithwaite and Lyles that were posted on the school district web site. Members of the board of education have previously indicated that they would like to hire a new school superintendent this summer so the person will be in place by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.
Walker’s contract as interim superintendent expires at the end of this month.
Since last fall the nine member Board of Education has been conducting a national search to replace former School Superintendent Dr. Charles Epps, who retired in June 2011. Most of the current school board members campaigned on the promise that they would get rid of Epps and conduct an extensive search to replace him that would include candidates from across the country.
Epps, however, had many supporters among parents – particularly African American parents, some of who were skeptical of the push to dump him.
Lyles and Braithwaite are both black.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.