City BOE expected to adopt director search standards this week

By Thomas Wilson
The Elizabethton Board of Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday to adopt professional and leadership criteria that will be used to select the city's next director of schools.
The BOE is using the Tennessee School Boards Association's Superintendent Search Service to select the successor of Dr. Judy Blevins. Tuesday's meeting follows several public meetings involving TSBA and community members.
As part of the search process, a committee comprised of citizens and BOE appointees has submitted their input via a TSBA survey on what qualities rank most important in the city's next director of schools. Criteria selection ranged from an applicant's teaching and administrative experience to his or her lack of connection to any local political faction in a community.
BOE Vice Chairwoman Judy Richardson said Friday community meetings held thus far found committee members highly interested in selecting candidates without political connections to Elizabethton factions.
"From what I've heard, they want someone who could see the whole picture," said Richardson.
The survey asked committee members what he or she liked about Elizabethton City Schools, what needed to be changed and what qualities should be the system's next director of schools. Committee members and meeting attendees were given survey sheets to rate the level of importance various criteria had on the selection of the system's next director.
Members of the committee are:
* Martha Laws, teacher at East Side Elementary
* Judy Deloach, owner of Ivy Hall Nursing Home
* Dr. David Wetzel, committee educational consultant and former ECS director of schools
* David Wortman, owner/broker at Edward Jones & Associates firm in Elizabethton and former chairman of Elizabethton Electric System's board of directors
* Harry Farthing, ECS teacher and president of the Elizabethton Education Association
* Mary Bush, parent of two children attending city schools
* Vivian Johnson, eighth grade teacher at T.A. Dugger Junior High School
* Helen Collins, former information officer for the Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce.
"The things on that sheet tend to be consistent from community to community in what people want to see," said Randall Bennett, legal counsel with TSBA and is assigned to aid the BOE in the search and selection of the new director of schools.
After the criteria is adopted, Bennett said TSBA staff will begin to create a brochure tailored to the position and target potential candidates. TSBA estimates a complete search generally takes 4 to 6 months from announcement to employment. Past TSBA searches resulted in the system losing Blevins and Dr. Dale Lynch to other school systems.
While TSBA policy requires the committee have at least one school board member, all five BOE members -- Richardson, Catherine Wooten Armstrong, Bob Berry, Dr. Jonathan Bremer and Dr. Bob Sams -- will sit on the committee. How great a role the full committee takes in selecting a new director is up to the board of education, according to Bennett.
"I'm well pleased so far," said Richardson of the TSBA search process. She also said the BOE expected to have the committee hear the criteria adopted by the board, but added she wasn't sure if the full committee would be permitted to sit in on interviews of candidates.
According to the search service model, a TSBA consultant conducts an initial meeting with the board to discuss its options and explain the Superintendent Search Service. The search service includes advertising the vacancy, developing an employment contract, scheduling interview dates, providing interview guides for the board, performing background checks, and may negotiate the board's contract with the finalist.
"We try to publish this and send it out to publications to let different people know it is available," he said.
After the school board approves the criteria, the TSBA personnel narrow the applicant field down to five candidates that most closely match what the BOE and committee members desired in a director.
"If the board is not interested in those five candidates, we will go back to the board and find five new candidates," said Bennett. After five candidates are recommended, the BOE will interview each candidate with guidance from TSBA consultants.
"We recommend each person be interviewed exactly the same way," said Bennett. "That is the only way you can compare apples to apples.
"We can suggest interview questions and narrow that group down to two or three finalists."
After finalists are selected, board of education members are encouraged to visit their places of residence to learn more about the people they are considering to hire. Members of the Campbell County board of education pounded the pavement in Elizabethton to inquire about Blevins when she became a finalist for the director's position.
The board voted to utilize the Superintendent Search Service provided by TSBA at their July 28 meeting. The board is spending $7,500 with the Association to cull candidates and select its next director. Blevins was selected by Campbell County School System as their new director of schools in July after TSBA brought her name to that system's school board.