Members of the public got a chance to make their opinions known about the qualities they would like the new director of schools to have Tuesday night.
In a public meeting held at Tullahoma High School, Tennessee School Boards Association Executive Director Tammy Grissom listened to more than a dozen people list their preferred qualities for the new director of Tullahoma City Schools.
Grissom and TSBA were hired by the Tullahoma City Schools Board of Education to conduct a nationwide search for a new director of schools after the resignation of former superintendent John Carver.
Carver served a little more than 10 months of the two-year, eight-month contract he signed in October of 2018. He officially resigned from the district in September.
According to statements from School Board Chairman Pat Welsh last month, the costs associated with hiring TSBA to conduct the nationwide search will be $6,500. The board unanimously approved the price at a Nov. 18 meeting.
Grissom spent half an hour soliciting comments from attendees, which including current and former TCS employees as well as members of the general public.
Generally speaking, the attendees told Grissom the main challenge for the new superintendent would be rebuilding trust between the office of director of schools and the rest of the district employees. Another challenge for the new leader of the school system would be trying to eliminate “bad morale” among the current faculty, some attendees said.
Atticus Hensley, a member of the fine arts department for the district, added that following the extended tenure of former superintendent Dan Lawson would be another challenge. When a district has that kind of stability for an extended period of time, Hensley said anyone following that stability would have a challenge on their hands.
When it came to what qualities people want to see their new superintendent to possess, overwhelmingly attendees said they wanted someone who would be willing to listen to input from all community stakeholders, common sense leadership, immersive community involvement and an ability to recognize the talent within the current faculty and staff.
Other qualities the public hoped for were fairness, an open mind, a willingness to admit fault and change their mind when necessary and the ability to do “a lot with a little.”
A former teacher in the system said she wanted to make sure whoever was hired didn’t have their own agenda when coming to the system; instead, they needed to be willing to listen to what current faculty and staff members have to say and take that input into account when making decisions for the city’s children.
Another attendee said she hoped the new superintendent would be willing to listen to parent concerns and take a closer look at some district policies that maybe don’t work as well as they should.
According to Grissom, TSBA will accept applications from anyone interested in the position nationwide, including internal applicants, through the middle of January. After that time, a screening committee will be assembled to review each resume and narrow down the candidate field to no more than five finalists.
Once those finalists have been identified, Grissom said, TSBA would present the names to the school board by about Feb. 11.
After that, the board will take time to interview each applicant and do its own research into the finalists, gathering information necessary to make a decision by March 2020.
The finalists will also spend a day in Tullahoma, getting to know community stakeholders, government officials, and other members of the community.
All the formal interviews of the candidates will be open to the public, Grissom said, though community members will not be allowed to ask questions of the candidates.
The goal, Grissom said, is to have a new director of schools in place by June 1.
Overall, those who attended the meeting felt assured the process would be as out in the open as it could be.
One attendee, Dale Eldridge, said she was glad the board was going “in a different direction” with this superintendent search and was satisfied with the meeting.
“I thought it went very well,” Elridge said. She told The News she hoped the new superintendent would be “trustworthy, open-minded [and] willing to work with what’s here in town already,” referring to the current faculty and staff.
Another invested community member, Susan Harris, said she also appreciated the process of finding the city’s new school leader.
Both Harris and Eldridge previously had or have children in the school system and are therefore interested in what happens to the school system.
“We’re always interested in our future of Tullahoma,” Harris said. “I appreciate that they’re having open forums. I think that’s very helpful.”
Harris added that she thought the current interim director of schools would be a perfect fit for the job, but acknowledged that other candidates might also be what the system needs.
“I understand that [someone] outside the system can bring new ideas, but at this point, anyone coming from outside – you’re going to have a least a year lag at trying to figure out Tullahoma,” she said.
Tullahoma isn’t necessarily a complicated community, Harris said, but having someone who “already understands” the community would be “an advantage.”
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.