Dr. Sito Narcisse
East Baton Rouge Parish School System
Dr. Sito Narcisse has ideas. And he’s not afraid to push them.
Since taking over as superintendent of the East Baton Rouge Parish School System in February 2021, Dr. Narcisse hasn’t been shy about sharing his ideas and touting the district to anyone who will listen—from local, state and national leaders to people in the store checkout line. Stick around him long enough and Dr. Narcisse may very well share his story of growing up among various cultures in New York and how his parents from Haiti impressed on him that “nothing is impossible,” which happens to be the school system’s latest theme.
“They pushed me and my brothers,” says Dr. Narcisse, the middle of three sons.
The parents exposed Dr. Narcisse to role models who cared about him and his education. “They found different community people who invested in me, whether that was the community center or other civic leaders,” Dr. Narcisse says. “My dad and mom believed that birds of a feather flocked.”
That access opened a new world to Dr. Narcisse, who went on to graduate from Kennesaw State in Georgia, Vanderbilt University (master’s degree in secondary education) and the University of Pittsburgh (doctorate in educational administration/public policy/leadership).
“If we weren’t exposed and given opportunities, I wouldn’t be here. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” he says. “That’s why I’m passionate about giving students a chance and pushing them to take opportunities.
Dr. Narcisse, 46, held various teaching and education leadership roles in Pittsburgh, Maryland, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., before coming to head Louisiana’s second-largest school district.
“I feel fortunate to be where I am right now,” he says.
Dr. Narcisse says he was attracted to the district’s potential.
“It was way more than I could even imagine. I was like, ‘Oh, my God; EBR has so much going for them.’ My goal has been getting the pieces of the puzzle connected, managing them and helping the communities to see their potential, along with the many assets and opportunities available if we work collectively,” he said. “This is a community that’s very giving. Regardless of its history or even the history of this district, I would argue that there’s a lot of things it has not taken advantage of.”
The region has to take advantage of its resources, particularly in innovation, he says.
“This is the state capital, and it has so many opportunities,” he says. “I couldn’t understand what people could not see in terms of resources, because what I learned in some of my bad experiences is that systems in cities that didn’t do as well, they paid attention so much to resources they didn’t have and didn’t focus on what they did have.”
It didn’t take long for Dr. Narcisse to start sharing his ideas—many that have proved successful in other places—and vision for the school system.
One was building upon the already excellent magnet programs with the creation of two Focus Choice Schools.
“It was his brainchild,” says Theresa Porter, executive director of innovation at East Baton Rouge Schools. “Because he has been to multiple districts, he’s familiar with magnet programs and he’s always familiar with aspects that we may not be aware of.” Focus Choice Schools differ from traditional magnet schools with no GPA or test score requirements.
Focus Choice Schools also have community partners to offer specialized expertise career paths.
Examples are Park Elementary Medical Academy, which prepares students to work in diverse health care fields through the Baton Rouge General Medical System, and the Eva Legard Research Center for Coastal Studies and Environment partners with LSU and The Water Institute to emphasize environmental studies.
Porter says she contemplated retiring after 35 years with the school system before Dr. Narcisse was named superintendent. She decided to stay on after Dr. Narcisse shared some of his ideas. “He’s a natural motivator,” she says. “I love challenges, and he will give you a piece of the puzzle and your challenge is to make the rest of that puzzle fit, to make it work, to make it flow, to make it make sense…There’s people who play chess and people who play checkers. With Dr. Narcisse, you’re playing both.”
Other bold initiatives Dr. Narcisse helped implement includes the Pathways to Bright Futures program, which turns the district’s high schools into early colleges; a new conservatory school dedicated to visual and performing arts; and the 12th-grade paid pilot internship program, which matches high school seniors with employers in career fields such as construction, technology and medicine.
These bold ideas have started to garner national attention and support, such as collaborations with tech giant, Apple.
“I’m a big believer in positive thinking that once you create something and it begins to be effective, then people come on board easily because everyone likes a winner,” Dr. Narcisse says.
With a strong resolve to implement winning ideas for the betterment of students and families in East Baton Rouge Parish, Dr. Narcisse continues to see the potential and empower school leadership to place the puzzle pieces together.