Lafourche Parish Schools Superintendent Jo Ann Matthews has announced that she will retire in March 2019.

That will bring to a close her tenure as schools chief.

And it will create a vacancy that must be filled by the School Board.

It is essential that the board embark on a thorough, transparent search. The search must look far and wide to find the best candidate to lead the schools into the future.

Matthews was hired after just an internal search to replace former Superintendent Ernest “Buddy” Reed.

It would be a mistake to bet on such a small-scale search once again landing the best candidate for the job.

This is an important consideration as the School Board begins the journey that will lead to hiring the next superintendent.

But it is not the only consideration.

The board began talking at its meeting last week about the process ahead.

One of the questions that must be decided is whether the board wants to hire a superintendent or let the next board do so.

The next board elections will be held in 2018, and the new board members will take office at the beginning of 2019. That would give the new board just three months to conduct an exhaustive search, interview an impressive list of candidates and hire the right one.

Although it is admirable that the present board members are thinking about the next board, this is a process that can and should be handled in 2018.

There was some concern at the meeting that hiring a superintendent before the board’s term ends would create a situation where there are two superintendents being paid for the first several months of 2019. But the board can avoid that by setting a start date that coincides with Matthews’s departure.

Finally, some board members seem to want to hire an outside consultant to lead the process while others prefer the board to handle the job itself.

While the board should be capable of searching for the next leader, hiring a consultant to lead the search would probably be wise. A professional who is familiar with best practices can set the tone for a successful search that satisfies the public and yields a leader who will succeed for our educators, students, teachers and taxpayers.

The board will have some big decisions to make, but none of the decisions are difficult if the members keep in mind the true priority: Find a great superintendent using a thorough, transparent search process.


Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.