Sullivan school board seeking public input on director's search

Rick Wagner • Feb 19, 2019 at 2:32 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County school board members on Monday approved a “profile” for choosing a new director of schools, a document to be used for an online community survey starting next week before applications are accepted.

The Board of Education voted 6-0, with member Mark Ireson absent, to approve a 10-part “Profile of Director of Schools” to be posted Feb. 25-March 1 in an online survey on the school system’s website, where folks will be asked to rank the 10 items from most to least important. From there, the school board will look at criteria and look at resumes of applicants before choosing an estimated six semifinalists for public interviews, followed by public interviews of — probably — two finalists.

Applicants, including local ones, are to apply through consultant Wayne Qualls.

 The 10 statements, in a nutshell, are that the new director must:

— “Be a visionary leader.”

— “Have proven leadership skills to work with the board and various constituencies to set the vision and monitor the district’s performance.”

— “Take a collaborative rather than a confrontational approach.

— ”Not be afraid to take risks or make a commitment.”

— “Be an effective communicator.”

— “Be a good listener.”

— “Be an instructional leader.” (Vice Chairman Randall Jones, at the behest of member Jane Thomas, added a preference for someone with experience at the elementary, middle and high school levels.)

— “Be a good manager of people and budgets.”

— “Be flexible.”

— “Have proven ability to use data-driven decision-making to develop and administer a comprehensive school budget.”

The criteria so far, tweaked at the Feb. 7 school board meeting, are that the candidates have a professional educator’s license, have a master’s degree with a doctorate preferred, have at least 10 years of administrative experience at the school and/or central office level and “such other qualities as the board deems desirable.”

The old criteria said at least three years of administrative experience. Tennessee law requires only a bachelor’s degree, although the state won’t help pay the director’s salary for those hired without a teaching license. 

In addition, the board requires the director to live in Sullivan County, something it gave current Director of Schools Evelyn Rafalowski a year to do in her four-year contract. She is retiring on June 30 after almost 42 years of working for the system.

The board decided to stay with its planned timeline approved at the Feb. 7 meeting after getting a green light from Qualls, a former Tennessee education commissioner who helped find new superintendents recently for the neighboring Hawkins County and Kingsport school systems, as well as Roane and Jefferson counties.

The timeline calls for community input on the profile from Feb. 25-March 25, profile adoption on March 5, receipt of applications from March 11-April 9, finalists interviews from April 22-26 and selection of a new director on May 1, although if the process stalls the board could hire an interim.

“I think that’s a very good timeline,” Qualls told the board. 


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