School director interviews to be held next Saturday

Friday, January 20, 2012

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

School board members are set to interview all four candidates for the director of schools job next Saturday, Jan. 28.

The questions to be asked of all candidates were agreed on, and the schedule for the day was confirmed during discussion at a meeting Tuesday.

Chairman Mike Keny was entrusted with creating, and keeping secret, a question to be answered by all applicants in a hand-written essay. The candidates will have 30 minutes to complete the essay. Copies will be distributed to all board members for them to study, "just to help you form an opinion," said Donnie Moses.

The purpose of the essay is to assess the applicants' communication skills, according to Kristen Gold.

"If we're expecting them to be an instructional leader, we need to hold them to proper spelling and grammar," added Barbara Kennedy.

The three men and one woman will be asked to arrive at the Central Office at 9 a.m. and draw lots for their interview time. The essay will be written from 9:15 to 9:45. At 10 a.m. the first interview starts, followed by the second at 11:30. Then there's a break for lunch, and the afternoon interviews start at 1:15 and 2:45.

"We'll be out of here at 4 p.m.," predicted Kennedy.

Board members intend to get through the 18 selected questions in an hour and five minutes, and then give each prospective director 10 minutes to wrap up. The candidates will be provided with the questions in advance.

"There's always an opportunity for follow-up interviews," Kennedy pointed out.

Each board member submitted questions, and so did some teachers, and one community member. Many questions were similar, and by means of friendly compromise board members reduced the list to 18 questions, two for each member to ask. Of them, fully one-third are from faculty and the community, and will be identified as such.

Categories of questions include community relations, instructional leadership, personnel issues, and fiscal responsibility.

Candidates cannot be prevented from sitting in on one another's interviews, but will be discouraged from doing so, Keny said. The non-local applicants, William Royal and Paul Tisdale, may want to spend time exploring Lewisburg and Marshall County. Jackie Abernathy and Dr. Larry Miller will doubtless find a way to pass the time until it's their turn to sit in the "hot seat" and face nine board members anxious to make the right choice for the next director of schools.

Royal and Tisdale are paying their own travel expenses, according to Keny's answer to a question posed by Kennedy.

A suggestion by Harvey Jones Jr. - to have at least the last two finalists given a psychological evaluation, a procedure he has seen work well in industrial recruiting - was turned down at an earlier meeting. Board members voiced concerns about the cost of the testing, and about public record and privacy issues.