Charter Schools

Algiers charter network hires interim CEO to stay on without interviewing others

The Algiers Charter School Association selected interim CEO Rene Lewis-Carter Wednesday evening as the permanent leader of the six-school charter network, without interviewing any applicants.

The board members met to discuss CEO candidates, 22 of which they said met the minimum qualifications for the position.

But the only name mentioned in the discussion was Lewis-Carter’s.

“We didn’t interview any candidates,” Board President John Edwards said after the meeting. He said he thought board members comments during the meeting clearly explained why.

During its meeting, the board had clear wishes for a local candidate, but even qualified in-state candidates did not receive interviews.

After comments from board members and public that were overwhelmingly supportive of Lewis-Carter’s qualifications, and two board members saying their only concern was with the process, the board voted 5-1 in favor of hiring her.

It was a packed meeting at Algiers Technology Academy, one of the network’s six schools.

Sitting behind a stack of resumes, board President John Edwards began the discussion.

“I used various tools to rank the resumes and Rene Lewis-Carter scored the highest,” Edwards said. “I then turned to Forbes magazine that outlined three key factors to look for when selecting a CEO and again Rene Lewis-Carter received the highest marks.”

He urged his colleagues to support Lewis-Carter.

Member Nicole Sheppard said she too supported the interim and introduced a motion to hire Lewis-Carter that was quickly seconded by member James Henderson Jr.

“I didn’t really need to interview any candidates,” Henderson said later.

“If they were true to form on their resume, then that’s all I basically need.”

He said he considered a few other applicants, but that in the time they’d introduce “some new initiatives” and “buzzwords” they would also be trying to locate the schools.

“This is a small operation. I don’t think we need to have a long, drawn-out process,” he said.

“Luckily, I’ve been at this a long time and know how to spot the right candidate.”

Public comment was also supportive of Lewis-Carter Wednesday night.

“I really got tired of seeing these suitcase superintendents walk into our city and then run out with the money,” one woman said.

Her comment was met with rousing applause.

Returning to board comments, member Joseph Hugg said he had no qualms about Lewis-Carter, but he said  he’d change the selection methods.

“If I have any reservation…I wish we had taken a little more time in this process,” Hugg said. “But unfortunately we’re not in a position to take any more time.”

Member Alison Mehr, the only dissenting member, said she thought the board could improve transparency based on a lack of rubric for the position and its goals. She also noted board members received the packet of resumes one week in advance.

“We really may want to think about bringing in candidates to interview,” Mehr said, “and really thinking about transparency and making an honest effort to put the best possible candidate in place.”

Board members were especially drawn to Lewis-Carter’s service in the city. She was the principal of Behrman Elementary, an Algiers charter school for 10 years before being appointed interim CEO in January.

When Lewis-Carter was publicly appointed to the post, by what Edwards called a “consensus of the board,” the board would neither explain how they selected her nor the employment status of its current CEO Adrian Morgan. Turns out, Morgan was still employed, and the board later made her appointment and his termination official in votes at a public meeting.

“We didn’t want Algiers charter to be a pit-stop for anybody because our children are so important,” Sheppard said. “Ms. Carter has been in New Orleans. She’s been Algiers charter.”

Sheppard lauded Lewis-Carter’s leadership over the past five months. She noted her ability to put aside personal relationships when she decided to suspend a longtime colleague and friend, Landry-Walker High School principal Mary Laurie, amid accusations of cheating on state tests.

Laurie was placed on paid leave with three other administrators. She and two others did not show up on the final April payroll. The network has continued to refuse to comment on their employment status. Edwards refused again Wednesday night.

“Thank you all for the confidence you have shown tonight,” Lewis-Carter said to the room after the vote.

She said residents of the Algiers community hold her accountable.

“We educate our own, and that’s the highest bar of accountability.”

Asked after the meeting if Lewis-Carter would retain her current salary of $175,000, Edwards said they hadn’t gotten that far yet.

The Lens talked to or left messages for 17 applicants whom the network had labeled as meeting the qualifications. The nine we spoke with all said they had not been interviewed or contacted for anything beyond references.

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