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State agency being hired in FC school director search

EDITOR brian justice

The Franklin County Board of Education is hiring the Tennessee School Boards Association to narrow the field in its search for a new school system director.

The board unanimously approved this past week to go with a $5,000 search package instead of a costlier one at $8,500 that would have TSBA conducting additional public meetings.

Dr. Rebecca Sharber, who has been the Franklin County system’s leader the past six years, is retiring on June 30, 2015. Her contract doesn’t expire for almost a year, but the process to fill the position is expected to be extensive, and it could take nearly that long to complete.

The Franklin County Board of Education began the process last month to fill her shoes by fi elding input from the TSBA, which specializes in school superintendent fi eld searches and was instrumental in finding and introducing Sharber to Franklin County when she was hired.

Board Chairman Kevin Caroland told the board Monday that the system had gone with the $8,500 search process when Sharber was hired six years ago. He added that board members learned a great deal about what they deem a school director’s qualifications should be and could go through the hiring effort without the additional lengthy time frame required to conduct a series of meetings.

Board member Cleijo Walker agreed.

“To me, it’s not worth the extra $3,500,” she said, referring to what the board would get for spending the additional money.

Dr. Tammy Grissom, TSBA executive director, addressed the board last month about what services the association offers to help school systems fi nd suitable administrative candidates.

Grissom said TSBA would handle the process to advertise the position, field candidates, review their applications and narrow the list to between two and five prospects for the board to choose from.

She said TSBA offers a $5,000 service to take care of those details and another one at $8,500 where community meetings would be held additionally.

Grissom recommended the board should first set a hiring date, then go back from there to set up the interview dates so they can be worked into the schedule to make the hiring elements go as smoothly as possible.

Board member Lance Williams said it is paramount that the board determine the hiring date as soon as possible so the interview schedule can be established.

Questions were brought up about what would happen if the new superintendent started while Sharber is still under contract.

Caroland said the budget has $10,000 built into it to cover salaries during the overlap period.

New board member Gary Hanger, who was at his first meeting after being elected on Aug. 7, stressed that the board needs leeway in the hiring process to select a local candidate if one emerges later after TSBA has selected its recommended field of potentially five to seven for the board to choose from.

Caroland said TSBA can offer the list, but the board will make the final selection and can select another candidate if it deems that person is the best selection.

“It’s going to be based on what we want,” he said, referring to how the search and selection process will be handled.

Grissom had said with the Internet, and TSBA being part of a school boards association nationwide network, the search could easily cover the United States.

She said what TSBA would do for Franklin County has been done with numerous school systems across the state.

Grissom said TSBA will handle the groundwork to narrow the candidate list to whatever the board agrees on — usually between two and five finalists.

She said TSBA is very familiar with the procedures and has considerable experience with them. She added that, in many cases, TSBA has the same applicants applying at different school systems and is more familiar with those who are not qualified to make the finalist list.

Caroland said he favors candidates who have strong financial and administrative backgrounds, which have been Sharber’s strengths.

He said the board could consider hiring a private firm to do what TSBA does, but it would probably cost between $20,000 and $25,000.

“I don’t think they could do a better job than we could do (with TSBA),” Caroland said, adding that the move would be worth the cost.

New board member Adam Tucker, who was also elected on Aug. 7, asked about what the board might be missing out on by not going with a private firm.

Sharber said the cost differences are mainly transportation based because the firm’s employees would have out-of-state distances to travel to conduct the search process. She added that with the Internet and a trend toward nationwide advertising, the search effort will reach well beyond Tennessee’s border anyway.

Caroland said having TSBA screen the applicants would ensure sincerity to the process if a local candidate were to become the top choice because it is an outside source, independent from the school system.

“If there’s a local finalist, there’s more credibility than if we conducted the process ourselves,” Caroland said.

Hanger said he agrees with Caroland’s assessment.