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DC educator chosen as new Baton Rouge schools leader

January 15, 2021 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — An educator from Washington, D.C., has been chosen to lead public schools in Louisiana’s capital.

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board voted 5-4 Thursday in favor of Sito Narcisse to replace Dr. Leslie Brown, who resigned in October due to health complications. The board chose him Thursday over local favorite, Adam Smith who had been serving as interim superintendent, and Dr. Marla Shepard of Kansas City, Missouri, multiple news outlets reported.

“I am both humbled and elated to have received the support of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and to have the opportunity to serve the students and families of this school district,” Narcisse said after the vote. “I am honored to be trusted with this life-changing work and to collaborate with an amazing team committed to being the leadership our students deserve.”

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Narcisse said he’s excited to hit the ground running.

“I am excited to jump in on day one and begin the work of transforming this district into one that is focused on students first, supports and recognizes educators for the professionals they are, and is responsive to the needs of our community,” Narcisse said. “I am all in and I can’t wait to continue connecting with and learning from the amazing students, educators, and families in this district so that we can make this a school system that meets every student’s needs.”

Narcisse has spent the past 17 months as chief of secondary schools in the public school district in Washington. Before that, he served as chief of schools for Nashville, Tennessee, public schools, which have about 85,000 students, as well as four years as associate superintendent in the Prince George’s County, Maryland, school system which has nearly 130,000 students.

Narcisse was criticized Thursday because he lacks the minimum five years of classroom teaching required under Louisiana law to earn a superintendent’s certification. Given his situation, according to the review, Narcisse has two ways under Louisiana law to pass legal muster:

— He can request a waiver from a state appeals committee. He would have to apply this week to have his waiver considered at the committee’s Jan. 25 meeting. The committee’s next meeting is not until July, seven months from now.

— He can hire a top lieutenant, known as a chief academic officer, who has the credentials Narcisse lacks.

“Well we have several in our district who already have that qualification and there are many other people that he may or may not bring in from the outside, that could have that qualification. So it really isn’t a cost, it really isn’t a new position, it was going to be someone in his organization that would be able to carry that title,” said School Board Member Michael Gaudet, who voted in favor of Narcisse.