Why not the best for Tangipahoa?

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By Dayne Sherman


Few controversies energize the public more than school board decisions. This is just as true in Amite City as it is in Amsterdam.

Tangipahoa Parish Public Schools is now able to move forward with a new superintendent. It’s about time.

Unfortunately, this simple but important process of hiring a new leader has been complicated by controversy, both on social media as well as in the pages of the Daily Star.

When friends started texting me screenshots of irate Facebook posts (by a school board member) on the controversy, I knew heat had overcome light.

The hullabaloo, of course, is Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto’s public championing of a particular African American candidate for the superintendent’s position.

The mayor has every right to speak out on the school board’s top position. That’s just basic civic responsibility.

If you care about Tangipahoa Parish and the City of Hammond, you certainly desire the best leadership for the public schools.

Let’s cut through the noise and get to the heart of the matter as I see it. The mayor’s goal is not the improvement of the schools but his reelection in 2018.

Interestingly, the declared challenger in the race happens to be Councilman Lemar Marshall. It will be no surprise to Hammond residents that Marshall is Black.

If Mr. Mayor’s cynical goal is to split the African American vote by jumping on the bandwagon of the NAACP’s chosen candidate, then his stance is less than honorable. Pandering is never a good thing. Indeed, the word “pander” has its meaning within the context of prostitution, both political and literal prostitution.

To set the record straight, Marshall has brought afterschool programs to Hammond. He has been a leader in the ongoing Zemurray redevelopment project, and he deserves an honest evaluation as a mayoral candidate on his merits—whether he wins or loses. Splitting constituencies through pandering is not the way to decide an election or to run an ethical reelection bid.

What does Tangipahoa Parish Public Schools need in a new superintendent?

It seems to me that the next superintendent should have an earned doctorate from a reputable university, proven leadership skills, a career in education and classroom teaching, and appropriate certifications to do the job without a state waiver, not to mention an unmistakable passion for student success.

Moreover, he or she must have working experience as a superintendent of a public school system and the ability to “sell” the school system to students, parents, and community stakeholders as the greatest cheerleader for the system. Without solid promotion, taxpayers will not approve tax monies for the system.

The new superintendent must have firsthand experience in removing a school system from the federal desegregation swamp. If he or she can’t get us out of litigation in three years, I say let the superintendent find a new job elsewhere.

Let’s do the right thing for Tangipahoa Parish. I ask you, Why not the best for Tangipahoa?

Column / 500 Words / Published in the Daily Star, Hammond, La., Jan. 29, 2018

Dayne Sherman’s latest work is an ebook titled “Fat Boy: A Short Memoir.” Sherman doesn’t speak for any of his employers.

Dayne Sherman, Writer & Speaker

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