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Selecting new school system leader in flux
Jul 27, 2006 12:00 am
The soon-to-be elected Wilson County school board has two options to fill the Director of Schools position, which will become vacant in December with the retirement of Dr. Jim Duncan.
One is to begin the hiring process immediately when the newly elected board convenes in September, going through the hiring process and making a decision by December.
The alternative would be hiring an interim director to serve until the end of the 2006-07 school year and making a choice at that time with many educators not locked under contract.
It's a new situation for the Wilson County Board of Education, Deputy Director of Schools Mickey Hall said.
"The county has never faced a December appointment before, so knowing as far as how difficult it will be, it's hard to say," he said.
The deputy director explained most of the finalists in the ultimately aborted selection process earlier this year are employed, but that doesn't mean they won't apply again.
"I think it would depend on the candidates … who would be applying for a director's job willing to put their name in the candidates pool to be selected," Hall said.
Wilson County school board members started interviewing final candidates earlier this year with the intent to hire a new director as well as retain Duncan until his contract expired. However, two board members – Zone 2 board member Lisa McMillin and Zone 5 board member Greg Lasater – successfully derailed the director search, which the two had been decrying all along. Both were opposed to hiring a new director, citing the possibility of two new faces on the panel following the August election.
While three board members are not facing an election campaign, McMillin is facing opposition from former board member Laleta Shipper. Current School Board Chair Ron Britt is not running to retain his seat in Zone 4.
"With a new board coming on, they should be given the opportunity to be in selection mode on who the new director's going to be," Lasater said.
Another reason for the pair to withhold selecting a final candidate to replace the retiring Duncan was both believed the school system should not pay two directors' salaries.
Lasater and McMillin cited the $60,000 which would have been needed to pay a new director along with Duncan simultaneously for six months.
"The paying of two directors at the same time doesn't make any sense," Lasater said.
Lasater along with Zone 1 Member Wayne McNeese acknowledged the board has made no decision about how to proceed in September. However, McNeese thinks hiring an interim director could help the board ultimately decide.
"It'd probably be best to do an interim director," he said, although he did say he hopes "the two finalists that we got down to will reapply, and I hope to get them on board as soon as possible."
And while Lasater reiterated his hope Duncan would stay on through the end of the school year, he said the board could get someone in place by the end of 2006.
"We could do through this process for the next couple of months … and have a person named Jan. 1," McNeese said. "As far as an interim, I don't know who that person would be, so it would be hard to say … who is qualified around here at this time and who is even interested in doing it?"
The two finalists were Scott County Director of Schools Mike Davis and Union County Schools Director Charles E. Thomas. McMillin and Lasater voted against hiring one of the two – activating a clause which requires two-thirds approval of hires.
The board chose to hire consultant Wayne Qualls to find finalists, at a cost of $6,000, Hall said. The board could vote to rehire Qualls, hire another consultant or conduct the search themselves.
Lasater expressed dissatisfaction with the selection process.
"They come in, set in front of us and we ask them 18 questions" and then make a decision," Lasater said. "I didn't feel comfortable with that. … They need to come to these schools, meet these teachers, meet these principals, sort of get a feel for what they're getting into."
Staff Writer Jason Cox can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 45 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.