Franklin Parish School Board members interviewed three applicants for the superintendent’s position in a three-hour special meeting Nov. 21. The School Board is expected to choose a new superintendent Dec. 3.
LaTanga Blackson, Brian Gunter and John Gullatt are vying for retiring Superintendent Lanny Johnson’s position. Johnson is set to retire from his post in January.
During the meeting, each applicant was individually interviewed in open and executive sessions while others were kept in separate rooms.
Applicants drew numbers for the interview order. Gullatt went first, Blackson second and Gunter third.
In his interview, Gullatt touted the experience he gained from being Caldwell Parish school system’s superintendent.
“I feel like the Caldwell superintendent’s position gave me the opportunity to learn my craft, cut my teeth and learn on my own about things that go with being a superintendent that you just can’t learn anywhere else,” Gullatt said.
Gullatt has been Caldwell Parish school system’s superintendent for five years. He was child welfare and attendance director for Franklin Parish school system from June 2012 to Oct. 2015, principal of Baskin High School from July 2009 to June 2012 and assistant principal of Franklin Parish High School from July 2008 to June 2009.
During the open interview, Gullatt said “keeping a watchful eye” on teacher-student ratio would keep the Franklin Parish school system from experiencing financial problems because “80 percent of the budget goes to personnel.”
To recruit and retain certified teachers, Gullatt plans to take advantage of regional job fairs and find “unique ways” to get possible future teachers more money. Gullatt did not elaborate on the ways.
“We are all competing with a small group of fully certified teachers,” he said.
School Board members kept Gullatt in executive session for 45 minutes.
In her opening statement, Blackson said discipline, supervision and finances were “dear to my heart.”
Throughout her interview, Blackson called for more grants and possibly hiring a grant writer to entice teachers to Franklin Parish school system and develop funds for other educational projects. She also called for more training and mentoring programs for new teachers and to “properly train” parents and day care centers to prepare children for school.
Blackson is the personnel and elementary supervisor for the Franklin Parish school system. She has a total of 34 years of teaching experience and has held her current position for nearly 20 years. Previously, Blackson was principal of Winnsboro Upper Elementary for four years and has taught junior high mathematics and second grade.
During her open interview, Blackson associated her classroom teaching time and her time in administration in preparing for future circumstances she will face if hired as superintendent. Additionally, she would strive to be “transparent” and “pick up the phone and personally give School Board members a call” to keep them informed about important issues and agendas.
“I want to see this community come together as one,” Blackson said. “At the end of the day, it is all about the children.”
School Board members kept Blackson in executive session for 23 minutes.
During his interview, Gunter reminded School Board members he was principal of the “largest school in the history of Franklin Parish.”
“I have over 780 students, 80 plus faculty and staff there every day,” Gunter said. “There are thousand’s of dollars coming through our school and different curriculum. I know about athletics, attendance, welfare and building programs. Many things mirror what superintendents have to do.”
Before taking FPHS principal’s position, Gunter served as assistant principal / curriculum coordinator at the school for nine years. He has taught social studies at Winnsboro, Wisner and Gilbert High schools since 1993.
To implement recruitment and retain teachers, Gunter recommended raising salaries, more teacher training and support. Gunter also proposed a possible sales or property tax.
“Sometimes people look at education as something they have to pay for,” Gunter said. “We have to change their minds as education is something they need to invest in.”
When asked how he was going to address keeping Franklin Parish school system from experiencing future financial problems he said, “I want to try to reach the district’s goals with the limited resources we have to the highest of our ability, so we can continue to keep a positive fund balance and keep our district solvent.”
Gunter said he would examine the school system’s budget and “decide our educational priorities.”
School Board members kept Gunter in executive session for approximately 15 minutes.