Thursday, July 21, 2005

Board awaits superintendent applications


The Holly Springs School District Board of Trustees will start with a list of 12 applicants in selecting the next superintendent of education.

Martha Thomas, board president, gave an update on the superintendent search process during a meeting on Tuesday, July 12, at the high school library.

The board contracted with the Mississippi School Boards Association to conduct the search at a cost of $7,500. It was headed up by E. Harold Fisher and John Hartman, “two men who have extensive work with schools and school boards,” Thomas said.

The deadline for applications was June 24. But delays in getting those to the school board were caused by things such as lack of transcripts with some applications and reference checks not yet completed.

“No one who had their application postmarked by the deadline will be penalized,” Thomas said.

“We have 12 applicants – all who appear to be qualified at this point as far as the minimum requirements.

“There have been some delays in getting all the transcripts to verify degrees, and they’re actively working on reference checks. There’s about 50 references to check.”

She said of the 12 applicants, seven hold doctorate level degrees, one an education specialist degree and the other four hold master’s degrees; thus all have advanced degrees. Two presently serve as superintendents and one has previously served as superintendent.

The board is seeking a replacement for Judy Smith, who retired effective June 30. Cherrie Shaw is serving as interim superintendent.

Original goals included having the applicants’ information by July 11, applicants selected for interviews by July 18 and interviews conducted July 28-30.

“Those were tentative time lines when we contracted with the Mississippi School Boards Association,” Thomas said. “Those dates were our best estimates. We will have to make some adjustments.”

She said Hartman and Fisher would “stack rank the 12,” but it would solely be up to the board to decide how it wanted to narrow down the prospects and eventually do the hiring.

“This board could make the decision to interview all 12, or we could decided to cut it to seven or five or less,” Thomas said. “When we have the application packets in hand, we will make that decision.

“We could also reject all of them, but that’s not likely.”

Several citizens were on hand for the superintendent search update, including representatives of the Concerned Parents Association of Holly Springs and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Marshall County chapter.

School board member Paul Lampley asked how the board could best get the community’s input into the selection.

Board member Michael Crittle said, “We want to be very, very community friendly.”

Thomas suggested a community panel to help develop questions for the finalists, and also a community group to interview the finalists separate from the school board.

“The board will narrow the applicants down to finalists,” she said. “These committee members could conduct interviews with structured questions approved by our attorney. Then we would have results from the board’s interviews and the committee’s interviews.

“Of course, the board still has the ultimate responsibility to hire the next superintendent.”

Board members shook their heads in agreement that they liked that approach. Others in the audience also spoke out, “I like that.”

Thomas suggested the committee could use the same rating system as the board.

Attorney Tommy Freeland recommended a written report from the committee, “so it could be used in the decision process.” Freeland also said a moderator would need to preside over the committee’s interviews.

“It must be done structurally,” Freeland said. “Proper procedure must be followed because of liability.”

“I like that design,” Lampley said, “but how much weight will there be on the community input?”

Freeland said, from a legal standpoint, it would be information each board member could use in making his or her choice.

“All would have the same information and with their own conscience could decide how to weigh it,” Freeland said.

W.A. McMillan, representing the local NAACP, said, “I like the outline you have given.”

He suggested the committee selected to do the interviews use the same questions as the school board.

Thomas recommended different questions but ones that address the same issues.

Sy Oliver said he thinks the community would want to ask different questions from the board.

Thomas passed around a sign-up sheet for the executive committee, the one which will help develop questions for the candidate, further define the process and choose the community committee to do the interviews.

All agreed neither committee should be too large – like five to seven members.

Participants with the board president on the executive committee will be McMillan, Oliver, Bridge Muhammad, Kelvin Buck, Willie Jeffries, and Glynn Bridgeforth, chairman of the Concerned Parents Association. That group was scheduled to have its first meeting on Tuesday evening of this week at the school district office.

Thomas encouraged unity.

“We must all work together and do what is best for the children,” she said.

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