Five finalists in ECS superintendent search

Photo by Dave Boyd Randall Bennett, of the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA), briefs Elizabethton City School Board members on five possible candidates for new school superintendent.

By Thomas Wilson
The next director of Elizabethton City Schools could be selected from a field of five candidates selected as top contenders by the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA). Randall Bennett, legal counsel for TSBA, presented five finalists selected by the organization's Superintendent Search Service to the Elizabethton Board of Education Thursday night.
The five finalists recommended by the TSBA are:
* Robert D. Hooker, North Vernon, Ind., current superintendent of Scott County Schools in Indiana.
* Guy G. Fisher III, Clarksville, presently director of human resources for Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.
* Dr. John D. Payne, Mountain City; he is the former superintendent of the Unicoi County and Johnson County school systems and former director of finance with ECS.
* Dr. Richard McInturf, Johnson City, presently employed as supervisor of federal programs with Bristol Tennessee City Schools.
* Dr. David M. Roper, Roanoke, Ala., current superintendent of Roanoke City Schools, Roanoke, Ala.
The board of education selected 16 criteria to measure the system's next director, including successful teaching and administrative experience, strong academic and instruction skills, and the ability to manage a budget and fiscal affairs.
Richard Culver was named interim director in August shortly after Dr. Judy Blevins quit to become director of schools with the Campbell County school system.
Bennett said TSBA personnel reviewed 25 applications submitted to the association and others selected by search staff. He encouraged the board members to exercise equity in interviewing each candidate, particularly questions that were forbidden by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"We are excited about these folks," he said. "We think you will find your next superintendent in these folks."
He also told the board their timetable to get a permanent director by Dec. 1, 2003 had put the Superintendent Search staff working overtime. He said if the board was dissatisfied with all the recommended candidates, the process would start again. However, he was confident the board could find a director among the five candidates.
All interviews with the five finalists are required to be open to the public per the state's "sunshine" laws. Board Chairman Dr. Robert Sams set the interview dates of the five candidates with the board for Oct. 25, 27 and 29.
The Board of Education also selected a Kingsport attorney over two Elizabethton-based lawyers to represent the system. Michael S. Lattier was selected by a 3-2 vote of the board after Dr. Jonathan Bremer moved to appoint him. Elizabethton lawyers, Thomas R. Banks and Richard Z. Gray submitted resumes to interim director of schools Richard Culver in August seeking to become the system's next attorney.
Lattier served as the board's attorney during the late 1990s into 2002. The Banks firm had represented the city school system from 1995 to 1996.
The county's former judge of Juvenile and General Sessions Courts, Gray, is a graduate of East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville College of Law. He was in private law practice for six years before being elected to the bench in 1990.
The legal services fee schedule proposed by Banks, Gray, and Lattier was set at $125 per hour for professional services in their letters.
Board member Catherine Wooten Armstrong and Sams both expressed a desire to select an attorney closer to home. Armstrong said Banks had children attending city schools. "If we've got children in our schools, I feel we are going to be more active and more involved," she said.
Bremer felt selecting an attorney outside the community lowered the chance of a "conflict of interest" regarding school system issues. "I do feel when you are removed that you can look at it in a broader sense," he said.
Board members Judy Richardson and Bob Berry joined Bremer in voting to select Lattier while Armstrong and Sams voted no.