Erin McCullough


The search for the new director of Tullahoma City Schools is proceeding in a timely fashion, according to school officials.

Director of School Dan Lawson has indicated that he will not seek an extension to his contract, which ends in June 2019.

Lawson’s contract currently lists his annual salary at $145,702.

The Tullahoma City Schools Board of Education had a visit from education consultant Wayne Qualls at its Tuesday, Feb. 6, study session.

Qualls was hired in July 2017 by the board to find a new superintendent for the district. His contract with the board was approved with a price tag of $8,500, which includes $3,000 at the signing of the contract and another $3,000 at the end of a successful hire, plus expenses.

During his visit, Qualls laid out a potential timeline for the search he is conducting for the district.

According to Qualls, he believes he could present viable candidates to the school board by the end of the year, which would allow the board to make its final decision by early 2019.

Qualls’s timeline is only preliminary, and he cautioned that it “could be fluid,” and the board could make changes as time goes on.

“It is a process,” he said. “I will do everything I can do to help you in this process.”

Using information gleaned from individual interviews with the board members, Qualls estimates he could see the board naming its new director by the “end of the calendar year,” though he reiterated that the timeline could change at a moment’s notice.

“Any change in anything would warrant a change in the timeline,” he said.

Despite that warning, however, he said that he has already identified nearly 20 potential candidates for the board to consider for the job. Qualls said that by the next few months, it was probable that he would look at 40 to 50 potential candidates.

“This school system is a great school system,” he said, which makes this particular job attractive for potential candidates. “You have so much to offer.”

Qualls said one positive quality of the district is having the current superintendent serving such a long tenure. Lawson was hired in 1997.

When applicants are looking at taking a superintendent position, he said, they will almost always ask what happened to the previous director and how long they served.

“If you’re trying to recruit someone to see if they’re interested (in the job), that’s always going to be the first question,” he said.



One aspect of the hiring process Qualls spoke to was hosting forums for various members of the community to get to know potential candidates.

Qualls recommended hosting three separate forums: one for the general public, one for teaching staff and “school-based personnel” and one for administrative personnel.

The potential timeline for these forums, Qualls recommended, would be sometime in April, which would get the area past all the winter weather.

“That’s a good time; people like to get out about that time of the year,” Qualls said.

Qualls said the need for the three separate forums was based on his experience searching for superintendents.

“If you’ve got a little more intimate setting and a smaller group, you’re more likely to get some feedback on (candidates),” he said.

Once the open forums take place, Qualls will then narrow down the candidate pool to a smaller group that would then have individual interviews with the board.

Following the three open forums, Qualls said, he estimates the board could be interviewing individual finalists for the position around the middle of September to the beginning of October.

“That would put us on schedule to do all we need to do by getting it done by early 2019,” Qualls said.

Erin McCullough may be reached at

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