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Parents want say on schools CEO

Interim choice may come quickly

Now that city schools chief Paul Vallas is nearly out the door to New Orleans, Philadelphia parents are starting to focus on the process that will be used to find an interim fill-in while a national search is conducted to select Vallas' replacement.

Parents interviewed yesterday said they knew little about the process and are concerned that an interim chief may be selected with little or no input from parents and other concerned citizens.

Gov. Rendell has said the interim leader may be on the job for as long as a year to allow for a thorough national search.

"Whatever goes on, parents should be involved in that discussion. So, if they want to make the decision now, next week or next month, parents should be a part of that because these are our children," said Addie Williams, a Home and School Council vice president. She is the council's south and west regional representative, which together includes 45 schools.

"I would make sure there are parents and other community organizations, as well as some elected official, around the table giving input into the decision," said Karen Lash, past president of the Forrest Elementary School Home and School Association.

"I don't know if it's been a transparent process or if it has just been the School Reform Commission behind closed doors," added Lash, whose two children now attend a city charter school.

Late yesterday afternoon Greg Wade, president of the Home and School Council, met briefly with SRC Chairman James Nevels on the selection process. Neither man could be reached for comment.

When told of the parents' concerns, Carey Dearnley, a spokeswoman for the reform commission, indicated that they may not get their wish to be included in the interim selection process.

"I anticipate a pretty quick selection for an interim, and a formal process that would include public input from all of our stakeholders for the permanent CEO," she said.

"The idea is to have stability and continuity in the school district," she said of the need to select an interim replacement quickly.

As of yesterday no decision had been made about whom that would be, Dearnley said. But district sources said someone could be named between tomorrow and next week.

The formal decision on Vallas taking the helm of the New Orleans Recovery School District, meanwhile, may come as early as tomorrow, those sources said.

Vallas has declined to comment. Meg Casper, director of communications and legislative services for the Louisiana Department of Education, also declined to confirm if or when Vallas would be named superintendent.

She said Vallas arrived in New Orleans on Monday and will remain through tomorrow to consult with officials on rebuilding the school system, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina. *