The board running the New Beginnings Charter School Network publicly interviewed two finalists Thursday for chief executive officer, one from Milwaukee with Louisiana experience, and the other with the Recovery School District.

The CEO oversees four schools with a projected 2012-13 enrollment of more than 2,100 students and a combined budget of more than $17 million.

Board Chairman Tim Ryan said after former CEO Vera Triplett resigned in June, and who is now the principal of L.B. Landry High School, the board formed a search committee of four: two board members, a principal and a teacher. The board also hired DMM & Associates in the candidate search. The committee recommended two candidates for board interview after performing initial interviews.

Network spokesman Paul Dauphin couldn’t immediately say how much the board paid DMM, nor how many people applied for the position. Dauphin also declined to provide The Lens with the packets of information regarding the search process, which were provided to each board member at the meeting.

Finalist Paul Eichelkraut now works as an intern in the superintendent’s office of the Milwaukee Public Schools. He spent most of his teaching and administration years in various school districts in Wisconsin, he told the board. He recently worked in alternative schools as an assistant principal in St. John the Baptist Parish and Ascension Parish.  He said he moved to Wisconsin when his job was cut in St. John.

Eichelkraut emphasized a holistic approach to education.  When asked how he would boost parental involvement, Eichelkraut talked about a carpool system he established at one school to help parents who wouldn’t normally be able to attend school functions.  To get kids more excited about school, he said empowering students is the way to start.

“I’m a very democratic and transformative leader,” Eichelkraut said.

Finalist Sametta Brown is the executive director of human resources for the Recovery School District.  Brown previously served as the district’s coordinator for the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Previously, she worked in the New Orleans Public Schools for many years.

Brown said she would focus on data-driven results and evaluations.  In response to a question on parental involvement, Brown said, “you have to make the parents think it’s all about their child.”

Brown said she very much believes in intervention planning for both student education and teacher performance.  She said the plans work only if followed closely.

She said she hoped to bring New Beginnings’ school grades up from a ‘D’ to a ‘C’.

Both candidates were supportive of rekindling a relationship with the University of New Orleans.  Both were also in favor of site-based financial management for the network’s schools, with CEO supervision.  They each described a similar team-based approach and collaborative style of management when asked about their leadership styles.

The network’s CEO oversees operation of Gentilly Terrace Charter School, Lake Area New Tech Early College High School, Medard H. Nelson Charter School, and Pierre A. Capdau Charter School.

After the interviews, the board went into executive session to discuss the qualifications of each candidate.  The closed session lasted about 20 minutes.

“We want to get that person on board as soon as possible,” Ryan said after the meeting.  He said the board expects to vote on the CEO Wednesday, at its next board meeting.

In addition to Ryan, board members attending were: Donnica Conway, Carol Skriloff Starr, Mark Boucree, Carla Major and ex-officio member April Bedford.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...