City BOE interviews first two candidates for director's job

John D Payne

David M. Roper

By Thomas Wilson
The Elizabethton Board of Education spent Saturday morning putting the first two of four candidates vying for the city school system's next director through the paces.
Dr. David M. Roper and Dr. John D. Payne were interviewed by board members at the Elizabethton City Schools administration building. Board members asked the two candidates questions ranging from staff development and curriculum to whether either candidate would let small-town politics dictate their decisions on what was best for the system's students and educators.
The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) submitted five candidates from a pool of more than 20 applicants for consideration by the school board through its Superintendent Search Service. The candidate field dwindled to four after Robert D. Hooker, superintendent of Scott County Schools District 2 in Scottsburg, Ind., withdrew his name from consideration last week, according to the board.
Roper has been superintendent of Roanoke City Schools since 1999. He came to the school system after spending more than 20 years as an educator and administrator with the Birmingham City Schools. He talked to the board about his experience as a counselor.
Payne has held several administrative positions in four Northeast Tennessee school systems during his 30-plus years in education. He is the former superintendent of Johnson County Schools and most recently, Unicoi County Schools.
Roper holds doctoral degrees in Counseling and Guidance as well as Education Administration from the University of Alabama. Roper holds professional certifications from the state of Alabama as a superintendent, teacher, and counselor. Roper said he and his wife Sandy, who accompanied him to the interview, visit the area frequently because his younger brother resides in the Colonial Heights section of Sullivan County.
He also talked about the adjustment of moving from Birmingham City Schools with its 40,000 students to become superintendent of Roanoke City Schools and its 1,500 students.
"I was more impressed with the excellent reputation I had heard about this system," said Roper.
Roper talked about his experience as a counselor and program specialist with the Birmingham system in directing a systemwide academic competition for 79 schools. As a superintendent, Roper said the Roanoke system was ranked as one of the top 15 systems in Alabama for improvement in the Stanford Achievement Tests.
Payne served as director of business and finance with Elizabethton City Schools from 1993 to 1995. He retired in July after the Unicoi County Board of Education voted not to renew his contract as the system's director. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees, including a doctorate in Education from East Tennessee State University.
He spoke of his own administrative experience with rural school systems close in size and budget to Elizabethton's system. Payne also emphasized his experience as a financial manager, compiling annual school budgets for Johnson County each year as superintendent.
Payne said he mulled the idea of going to work for a school system in North Carolina or Virginia. However, he said he wanted to remain in public education and in Tennessee.
"I decided I was ready to go back to work," he said. Payne was elected as Johnson County's superintendent twice before state law changed superintendent positions to appointments via a district's board of education. He served as Unicoi County's director of schools for two years.
The school board voted 3-2 to use TSBA to pick their next director in July. TSBA employees involved in the search service culled the candidates, scheduled the interviews, and provided interview guidelines for the board.
The board will interview Richard A. McInturf of Bristol Tennessee City Schools on Monday and Guy G. Fisher with Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools on Wednesday. Richard Culver has served as the system's interim director since July.