Four candidates will be considered for the director of schools position, the Rutherford County School Board announced Tuesday.
Candidates were recommended to the School Board by the Tennessee School Boards Association, which was hired to help guide officials through the process of replacing Harry Gill Jr.
Candidates are Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources and Student Services of Rutherford County Schools Paula Barnes and Stan Curtis, director of Transportation, Maintenance and Custodial Services of Cheatham County.
Two candidates, Don Odom from Rutherford County and Donna Wright in Knox County, currently hold the same job title – assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
The TSBA received 17 applications by the March 21 deadline and was tasked with screening each applicant to ensure they qualified for the position.
Rutherford County’s School Board was willing to consider up to five qualifying candidates, however the TSBA only recommended four individuals.
Deputy Executive Director of TSBA Randall Bennett explained the School Board could accept the list of candidates he provided or make changes as they see fit.
“We’re going to recommend four to you and leave you some flexibility.” Bennett said. “We are comfortable with the four we are recommending.”
The School Board accepted the list of four candidates and made no change.
School Board member Aaron Holladay asked for insight from the TSBA about candidates beyond the four that were recommended.
Bennett would not comment about any other candidates.
Holladay expressed that although the board had chosen its candidates, there was an impressive list of individuals interested in the position.
“I think there were some particularly impressive candidates beyond these four,” he said.
Interviews are set to begin April 9 and will run for four consecutive days. Candidates are scheduled for a full day of activities before their interview begins.
The School Board debated whether to have two rounds of meetings with candidates by interviewing each and narrowing down the four to only two candidates before introducing them to county officials, principals and central office staff, however, it was decided there would only be one round with a long day for each candidate to fit everything in.
With more than 30 open-ended questions for candidates, interviews are expected to last about three hours. In an effort to reduce the number of questions and in turn the length of the interview, School Board members decided on questions to remove from the list, however other questions were added, which made no change to the expected length of interview time.
“We’ll go as long as it goes to get through our questions,” School Board Chairman Mark Byrnes said.
Candidates will spend the day touring schools, having lunch with principals, meeting with the public, and having dinner with the school board before beginning a three hour interview at 6 p.m.
The School Board also began looking at the contract it will offer to one candidate when interviews are over. No decisions regarding salary were made as the board decided to wait until after interviews to make that decision.
Jeffrey Reed, a local attorney who represents the school board suggested Rutherford County pays a low director of schools salary compared to other counties its size in Tennessee.
“Salary is an issue this board will have to think about,” Reed said.
Gill’s base salary is $128,115 with a $600 per month car allowance.
Gill resigned from his eight-year post as director of schools in December 2011 without reason.