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February 1, 2012

Updated: Alonso's chief of staff withdraws name from superintendent search

Updated: Tisha Edwards, Alonso's chief of staff who traveled to East Baton Rouge last week to interview as a finalist for the parish's superintendent seat, withdrew her name from the running, according to a story published this week in Baton Rouge's newspaper, The Advocate.

Edwards, the mother of a city school graduate and a current student, said Wednesday that she chose to withdraw her name so that her son can finish his middle school education in Baltimore.

Edwards was one of six semi-finalists for the seat, and took part in a public interview before the East Baton Rouge school board on Jan. 23. The EBR parish has held an unusually public search for a new superintendent, devoting an entire website to the search, and posting interviews on You Tube.

You can watch Edwards' interview, during which she is questioned for two hours, and discusses everything from her leadership style, to her efforts and accomplishments in the city, and the reforms she was hoping to bring to the struggling school system.

Original Post:

Tisha Edwards, right hand (wo)man and chief of staff for city schools CEO Andres Alonso, is a semifinalist for the superintendent seat in the East Baton Rouge Parish of Louisiana. According to Baton Rouge's local paper The Advocate, Edwards is one of six candidates who will be heading down south for a public interview in the next week.

She joins a pool of competitive candidates, including the parish's current Chief Academic Officer and a current superintendent, for the job. But she appears to be a serious one, according to Louisiana media reports, having been 15 recommended candidates from a list of 44 applicants, and ultimately one of six semifinalists solidified by a 8-1 vote of the the parish's school board earlier this month.


The East Baton Rough district has a website that makes public each candidates' CV and application. I poked around a bit, and it was interesting to learn a bit more about Edwards, who--despite her reputation for ruling with an iron fist--is referred to as the backbone of this system ( Many say she's responsible for the details behind the concepts). It also appears from her application that she was sought out by head hunters hired by the school district to conduct the search.

In her capacity as Alonso's chief of staff since 2009 and his special assistant the year prior to that promotion, Edwards highlights many of the accomplishments (negotiating union contracts, graduation rates, dropout rates, central office reorganizations, new schools) under Alonso as well as her stint as the founding principal of Baltimore Freedom Academy, which she led from 2003 to 2007. Before entering education, Edwards, who studied social work and law, made a career of social work and serving at-risk youth.

When contacted Wednesday, Edwards declined to comment at this time.

But, in Edwards' response to the application's question of "Why [East Baton Rouge]?" Edwards, who currently earns a salary of $175,000 as the second most powerful official in the school system wrote:

"Being a native southerner, it has always been my ardent desire to return to the south to serve. EBR presents an opportunity to return home and assist my community in educating its children. It is my hope to use my professional experiences to help EBR to become a high-performing school system and leader in the region for educational reform."
Posted by Erica Green at 10:11 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Baltimore City


It's been a while since I saw something worth chiming in on but this is it. Really? Back bone? Try a little farther South. While I do agree that AAA has, as with Elvis, left the building and Ms. Edwards has been left minding the store, I am not sure her brand of leadership counts as a backbone. Rather she is a bully. There's a difference between a strong hand and one that chokes the life out of you.

This administration has done nothing to foster leadership. Rather there is a small group at the top who is so firmly in place and actively destroys anyone who might want to move up the ranks. Ms. Edwards leads the pack and AAA knew what he was doing and has no one but himself to blame. Good principals get chased out, anyone who disagrees is screamed at to the point where a dissenting opinion never gets heard and in the end we have only slightly better outcomes and a high turnover. As for those outcomes I think they exist despite not because of leadership.

Should Ms. Edwards get the job two things would be clear:

1) There would be a power vacuum at the Mos Eisley that is known as North Ave (look it up if you are still reading and don't get the reference) that no sane person would want to fill.

2) Baltimore's loss would be Baton Rouge's loss.

On a separate note I wonder if there are still any of the old blog fans still reading. I miss you all and the fun we used to have. As for BC - I know you know, but it was fun to have you guess.

Interesting to read her resume and realize she has no education in the education field. Only in Baltimore City can someone come from any industry and be made a principal in their first job. No wonder the school system is so bad, there are many of these principals throughout the system. Edwards issue is she doesn't know how to be a good principal or what defines good education, and she is the number 2 in a failed system. Hopes she goes, although there will be another just like to in her place.

@Who am I now BC...nice to hear from you this new year!
FYI, it's been soooo quiet on the blog since the digital subscriptions. I miss everyone too.

Erica - what is a digital subscription and why would that slow the blog down? Me, again, being left behind.

On another note I wonder if you have done any digging into her time as a principal. I believe that there were issues with her there that the folks in "Red Stick" might be interested in. Then again, if we get to see her leave maybe those facts should stay where they are:-)

anon: It's not just that she has very limited background in education - frankly the people that have a background in education don't seem to be doing us any favors (by us I mean parents, kids, families, teachers) - it's that the gains have little or nothing to do with her "style" or her thinking since the former is really just screaming and the latter is non-existent. See if you can track one original idea or reform (other than putting her heal on the necks of those under her) that can be traced back to her. As for more waiting in the wings I actually think there is no bench at all to pull from. And any outsider would be eaten alive by the likes of the rest of Sr. staff.

Digital subscription is just paying for unlimited access to the website, is all. People are still reading, just noticed the comment volume is not the same. I get emails though, which is nice that people still want to communicate.

Mos Eisley reference alone made this post worth commenting on. Made me smile. North Ave leadership, as we're calling it here, has been crushing and oppressive. The school I work at, one of Baltimore's gems, has suffered more and more with mandates coming down the pipes. Each passing year we feel less like one of the schools to admire and more like a school in decline.

The ideas being forced down our administrations throats (or happily accepted depending on when and who you ask) are crushing the spirit, culture, and climate of this school.

I also have to agree that only here can someone with no education experience wind up running a school system. It's not surprising, however, when the majority of education reform also comes from people and institutions who have never taught. One day someone really smart is going to start asking teachers what might work to improve education in the city and actually follow through on their ideas. Hey, maybe even a teacher could rise into the inner circle and have a chance to say "Hey, guys, as far as these ideas actually working in the classroom.... well... they won't."

Well... I'm not 100% sure it's all about the paywall, though that probably doesn't help. I noticed a drop off in comments way before then. For me the issue is that there is no balance in the conversation - it's basically a group of people agreeing with each other about how much everything sucks. It's not much fun, and it doesn't serve much point, for me to wade into that mess. The last time I commented was on the court case that depressed me so. The lack of response depressed me more. Obviously, I still read posts and comments, but I'm done with posting in hopes for a discussion.

There are plenty of people with good education experience in the system, problem is they are pushed to the back because they make the people without education experience look bad. This happens all over the place.
There are plenty of upper admin positions filled by people who were removed from their principal position, Edwards, Bundley, McLaurin, I'm sure there are more. If you can't be successful as a principal you should not be put in charge of principals.

@ a parent --totally get that, too.

And I went back and looked at posts from previous years (Sara's era), and there just seems to be a different spirit about the discussions. I even went to see if there was something I could do differently (like if I was fostering that kind of discussion) in the things I chose to post about. I couldn't see any stark differences, other than the fact that I was new and didn't know things as deeply. But we had similar styles.

I know there was that large lag time after Sara left (in spring 2009), and I came in (spring 2010), where there wasn't regular city school coverage (Liz Bowie was swamped with two beats), so maybe that's it.

By the time I came on, there seemed to have been a turning tide in morale of the system.

To a parent:

That's sad for me to hear. I have often engaged in feisty debates and discussions on this board although not so much recently. I do agree that the constant refrain of how hard things are gets overwhelming and am willing to take my lumps on that front - something to think about for sure. I am glad you are still reading and commenting. I am not sure which court case you last posted on but any court case that touches kids and schools makes me sad. If the allegations are true, it's usually awful. If false, again, awful.

As for this post, I am constantly reminded that the farther people get away from the classroom the less impact they have. Decisions made at North Ave rarely have any connection to what happens with kids. It is the constant drum beat of compliance to one new directive after another that wears us down. In my school I was told that the cafeteria is being audited. I was also told that the kindergarten teachers were not allowed to help the kids get their trays or punch in their lunch numbers. Really? Is this the best use of monitoring? Is this what is best for kids? Is this what is best for adults who care about kids? I am not sure where this specific directive comes from - feds, the state or 200 E North Ave. - but it is the kind of thing that makes me feel like we are doing battle with adults who should be supporting us.

Ms. Edwards and her brand of management does nothing to foster unity or shared vision. It fosters fear and loathing. It fosters the best and most hard working to look for greener pastures. It is a by-product of Dr. Alonso's style. At first I used to wonder if he know how things are being done and after years I realized that in fact this is what he has planned all along. I was a true believer when he arrived. Not so much any more.

I wish Ms. Edwards the best and I think she would be an outstanding canidate for the Superintendents position. People lets not forget what a mess the system was before Ms. Edwards was COS. It was all about who you know and not what you know.Slackers ruled ! She is holding people accountable for their actions and it is what the schools need in order for the kids to achieve. She has her own form of inspiration :) People are getting it done all of a sudden. Say what you want , the fact is things are improving and people aren't just picking up paychecks for doing nothing. No more 2 hour lunch breaks folks ! It's a hard job and she's got the balls to get it done ! Kudos to her !


" It fosters fear and loathing. It fosters the best and most hard working to look for greener pastures. It is a by-product of Dr. Alonso's style. At first I used to wonder if he know how things are being done and after years I realized that in fact this is what he has planned all along. I was a true believer when he arrived. Not so much any more."

To whom it may concern. Time to do the work of the children, not the work of personal self interest. Live up to the propaganda.

No one is nearly as dumb or naive as 'some' want to believe.

I think Ms. Edwards has one of the most challenging jobs any one could ever imagine. The city has gone thru a complete transformation that was needed. Brick walls had to be knocked down and things had to change for the sake of the children. Anyone who has been in the system knows there were so many people who simply were not doing their jobs, receiving checks that they didn’t qualify for. All on the backs of the kids. Things have changed, people had to get on the bus or get off. Sometimes tough love is what it takes. I don’t know the state of the school in Louisiana but I know Ms. Edwards can turn it around as needed. I wish Ms. Edwards the absolute best!

@ Erica - The system has changed from one that was like the Rick Perry campaign, just waiting for the next public gaffe, to one where very little is discussed in open. Comments became more acidic because only those close to the fire know the depth of the deception.
I cannot begrudge Ms. Edwards for trying to advance her career even if it includes some puffery in her resume. She has learned from the master of false imagery.
BTW – what ever happened with replacing Basu? His term has expired; the state ran two searches and still not replacement. HAve they not found someone who is acceptable to the CEO?
Also have you wiped the egg off your face for that hack job on Roland Park?
Still love what you do just not paying the price.... it's tough all over.

How about posting everyone' s resume who works with the school system and the taxpayers money ? this will definitely weed out people with fake degrees and little to no qualifications. I love what they are doing down south.

For those with any common sense BCPSS is on the move pushing initiatives that will leave other school systems in the dust !!! Yes we do believe in our Great Schools and our Great Kids and our Great Teachers and our Great Administrators ! Initiatives you ask for ? How about the Instructional Framework for Teachers, How about our initiating the Common Core NOW !!! We are the under dogs but we won't give up and we will fight for victory ! Ms. Edwards had the courage to push her team to victory ! Despite the odds !

The complainers can't get over the fact that the system is improving under Alonso and all they can do is post their rants on this website. Good luck Ms. Edwards and keep the system moving forward Dr. A.

"There would be a power vacuum at the Mos Eisley that is known as North Ave (look it up if you are still reading and don't get the reference) that no sane person would want to fill."

That would be an excellent outcome. Perhaps, with luck, the vacuum would be powerful enough to suck all the bloviating overpaid stooges into it and the whole place would implode.

First off, I wish her luck although I do believe that Ms. Edwards was and has always been more flash than substance. The reason we don't get the discussions going like we used to is because of the digital subscriptions. The only reason I read the SUN is for the education articles and, if I do that every day, I run out of free pages fast. Sorry but that is the way it is. I know papers need to make money but . . .

All the defenders of the BCPS school system are ignoring the facts, the test scores are down over the last few years. Don't believe me follow the link to Edwards resume and look at the numbers. This system is not improving, it is all about falsifying the numbers so they can suck up taxpayers money and make a good living. They don't care about the kids. Look at the principals that are in place now, it is all about who you know and what sorority you belong to.

"The complainers can't get over the fact that the system is improving under Alonso and all they can do is post their rants on this website. Good luck Ms. Edwards and keep the system moving forward Dr. A."

Where do you see improvements other than the data provided by the Central Office? Juking the stats is not improvement. Changing what minimum grade teachers can give to students who do no work or do not show up is not improvement. It's a numbers game. Teacher and Administrator morale is as low as ever. Good educators are jumping ship for districts that understand you can't put students first if you put teachers last.

I have gone back and forth, over and over about commenting about the COS and her possible move to the South. I first am amazed at the insidious comments that people have on the blog. Whether you agree with her or not, she is still a human being. The comments of some of the adults clearly show why many of our students come to school with practically no social skills, simply put....their parents have none. I've read the blog enough to know that most of you complain and gripe, complain and gripe. What I do know is that the COS's job for City Schools is a difficult one. Having been in education for 17 years, in different positions in two jurisdictions, I KNOW that BCPS needed the overhaul that has occurred under Dr. Alonso. When I came to the district, the focus was on the adults, clearly, and how they felt and what they wanted. Many teachers and central office staff were just collecting checks. So, now the natives can't take someone who cares about the kids. Grow up, do your job, stop whining. This place needed to be cleaned up and Tisha Edwards without a doubt has been a force in that clean-up. Keep up the good work Ms. Edwards. Your job is about students not whether the adults like you.

i agree that we do tend to gripe on this blog more than we should. I think that one of the reasons for this is that no one else will even tolerate the complaints. When people believe that their voices are not being heard, of course they are going to rant the only places that they can. Complaining in BCPSS has always been a death knell for teachers. It is one area in which the system has done precious little to repair. Yes, the system must always continue to improve and work on helping students but the responsibility for the improvement has to come from more than one source. Teachers alone cannot make the changes necessary.

According to The Advocate (Baton Rouge newspaper), Tisha Edwards withdrew her application.

Memo to Brandon: you have definite opinions about the school system. Instead of relying on this blog, how about showing up at a school board meeting and putting your money where your mouth is?

Thanks @Former Teacher for alerting me to the update. I hadn't followed up yet and got distracted with other stuff. Appreciate readers like you!

"Edwards ... said Wednesday that she chose to withdraw her name so that her son can finish his middle school education in Baltimore."

So after she applied and interviewed for the job, she discovered she had a son in middle school in Baltimore?

I am glad Ms. Edwards is staying with the district. She can be harsh and some don't agree with her iron fist approach but she has created a sense of urgency and got many people to start doing their jobs at north avenue. It is also difficult to be liked when you are the person Dr. Alonso assigns to do all the dirty work. I've worked for her for several years (but now have moved to a new department) and have always thought her decision making and thought to be sharp and trust her judgement.

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