Native son selected as superintendent by Orleans Parish School Board

After a yearslong search, the Orleans Parish School Board unanimously selected Henderson Lewis Jr. as its next superintendent tonight.

Reached tonight for comment, Lewis said he had not yet heard from the School Board, adding that he is  honored to be selected.

“I’m very humbled that the board has placed this confidence in me,” Lewis said.

Lewis mug

In its extensive search for a permanent district leader, the board brought several candidates through multiple rounds of interviews. But it could never muster the five votes required to select a superintendent.

On Tuesday night, a unanimous vote of the seven-member board propelled Lewis forward.

“I feel relieved that it’s over,” School Board President Seth Bloom said. “It’s been a long thorough search.”

Bloom said Lewis and brings experience both as a superintendent and a member of the St. Bernard Parish School board. Lewis also is now the superintendent of the East Feliciana Parish school system.

Stan Smith has held the interim superintendent spot for more than two and a half years.

“I’m happy to see that we’ve come to a unanimous agreement,” Bloom said. “I think he offers a lot and look forward to working with him.”

Candidates Debbra Lindo and Lewis each interviewed three times and were invited back last week to meet the public in a forum held at Alice M. Harte Charter School.

Today, the board again discussed the candidates behind closed doors, this time for about an hour.

The Orleans Parish School Board currently oversees 14 charter schools and six direct-run schools. The charter schools are largely autonomous, setting their own curriculum and calendar and hiring all personnel, under their own boards and administrations.

Lewis has said leading New Orleans’ public schools would be like coming home. The New Orleans native previously worked for the Algiers Charter School Association.

He said he is excited to begin working toward ensuring “all students receive a first class quality education” in Orleans Parish.

At this time he intends to continue serving on the St. Bernard School Board, he said.

The board and Lewis will begin negotiating a contract; a start date for the new superintendent has not been set.

Smith earns $160,000 per year and also has health and retirement benefits. The district does not provide him with a car.

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About 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 to New Orleans in the fall of 2014 after covering education for the St. Cloud Times in Minnesota. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with majors in journalism and social welfare and a concentration in educational policy studies.

  • nickelndime

    Yeah, cuz the “native girl” went back to California. ASP (that’s my pet snake ASP) made me do it. We are both on the floor, laughing our ASPs off. 01/21/2015 11:24 AM

  • R.Rubes

    Can we gets some credentials or qualifications about him? Other than he is a “native son”? We don’t need more Boys Clubs in the NOLA education administration. What is his plan?

  • nickelndime

    R.Rubes – brains AND a sense of humor!?! OMGAWD! This is too good to be true. and it’s only Monday. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the week brings. Yes, Marta, how about sharing the gentleman’s credentials and strategic plans for the District. I believe Henderson’s salary as the Academic Superintendent will rise to $165,000 (which is higher than his current East Feliciana superintendent position), but some might say that is only half of what the charter CEO (RSD, BESE, and OPSB) salaries are. There must be method to this madness, and I am sorry to say what it is. 01/26/2015 3:53 PM

  • nickelndime

    I love Dennis Leary’s line in THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, “I KEEP goldfish. She KEEPS an apartment.” In this case, Henderson KEEPS an apartment in Baton Rouge (LA) – to get to his job in East Feliciana Parish. I know – I know! It makes sense, but my ASP (that’s my pet snake ASP) is laughing so hard he fell off the chair. ASP thinks it’s funny, but sometimes I just don’t get ASP’s sense of humor. We both get a hoot out of Dennis Leary though. 01/26/2015 4:02 PM

  • nickelndime

    The “native girl” has qualifications and a plan too. She took her qualifications back with her to California, but she left the plan here, and, as we speak, the Central Office personnel over at the OPSB is cutting-and-pasting Debbra’s plan for presentations at the next school board meeting in March. The OPSB decided that a February meeting was not needed in lieu of Mardi Gras. Seth Bloom is the new OPSB president. He is a criminal defense attorney, so he is definitely in the right place – New Orleans. 01/26/2015 4:11 PM