Charter Schools
 

Ben Franklin High School’s board to begin contract negotiations with new CEO

Benjamin Franklin High School’s board of directors selected Patrick Widhalm as its next CEO on Monday, and they’re just a signature and board vote away from sealing the deal.

Widhalm has been the executive director of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, located in Natchitoches, since 2001. The state-supported public boarding school, established by the Louisiana state legislature in 1982, earned an A rating with a school performance score of 128 points out of 150 last year. If Widhalm accepts, he’ll move to one of the other top high schools in the state — Franklin earned an A with 138 points.

The board authorized chairman Les Alexander to negotiate a contract with Widhalm.

Alexander said the search committee had established salary and benefit parameters, but he could not recall them offhand. The Lens has requested that information.

Widhalm’s base salary in 2014-15 was $135,186, according to information the school submitted to the state Department of Education. That year, former Franklin CEO Timothy Rusnak earned a base salary of $171,972.

Rusnak resigned at the end of the 2014-15 school year and Daniel Casey is serving as interim CEO this year.

The search process cost about $60,000, board member Duris Holmes estimated. That included professional services from search firm Educational Directives Inc. and other expenses such as meals with candidates.

Holmes said the search committee began with 17 resumes, narrowing the field to six and ultimately selecting three finalists to visit the school.

The search committee met last week to discuss the finalists, including Widhalm, Laurel Seid, who works at the Washington Latin Public Charter School in Washington D.C., and Tom Harvey, a college counselor who previously served as president of St. Aloysius School in Harlem, New York.

A majority of board members present said they thought all three candidates were very strong and favored Widhalm in the end. The board voted unanimously to select Widhalm.

“His knowledge, expertise, experience with being in this state, it’s invaluable,” member Ingrid Labat said.

John Parauka, a Franklin teacher and student-services director, praised the board for running a transparent selection process.

“I’m looking forward to wonderful things from the person that they’re hiring,” he said after the meeting.

The contract will come before the board for final approval, Alexander said.

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