The Murfreesboro City Schools Board hopes to have a new superintendent in place by Oct. 1.
The board last week approved a timeline to search for a superintendent. It is using the Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) to conduct the search.
TSBA Executive Director Dr. Tammy Grissom met with the board, which voted 6-1 to go with the more expensive of two search process options. Board member Becky Goff was the “no” vote.
The board will pay TSBA $11,500 not only to advertise for the job opening and accept applications from candidates but also to hold community meetings. TSBA will use a committee of education experts to match applicants with job criteria that are identified from the community meetings, Grissom said. The committee members will be anonymous because if the members were named, they would never serve again, she said.
The plan that the MCS board rejected would have cost $6,500 and would have used criteria provided by the board, Grissom said.
Goff said the district had money cut from its budget and she believed the board could do “just as good finding someone” with the less expensive option and mentioned public perception on spending.
Board member David Settles said, “We’re on a two-edged sword” because it will receive scrutiny anyway. Goff said the district already is receiving pushback for consolidation with Rutherford County Schools, “and this gives fuel to the fire.”
Board member Roseann Barton said an extra $5,000 is not much in the district’s budget.
The previous superintendent, Dr. Linda Gilbert, passed away last month. Ralph Ringstaff was appointed to serve as the interim superintendent.
Chairman Butch Campbell said Mayor Shane McFarland told him the city will not consolidate the district, and he has not heard any talk on potential consolidation in months. Goff said the county mayor is pushing for consolidation. Settles said he had spoken with a couple of city council members, and was told that is not an issue.
Council member Bill Shacklett, who represents the city council for the school board, said their job is to find the best superintendent, “and the other stuff is just background noise.”
Open search process
Grissom said she would provide updates once a week on the applications. A board member asked Grissom if the applicant names would be blacked out. Grissom said her reports will include names because those are public records, but the board will not know which candidates are the three finalists until the night of the vote.
Grissom said that if the MCS board hosted the community meetings, they would be subject to the Open Meetings Act. If more than one member attended and gathered information, that requires adequate public notice. If the TSBA hosts the meetings without the board present, that is not the case, she said. She suggested the board members do not attend these meetings for that reason and because district employees would be more likely to talk freely. Invitations will be sent for these meetings.
The board is invited to attend a luncheon with the city council and business leaders.
There is a blackout date from June 22-Sept. 5 in which the board may not offer the job or sign a contract with anyone, although it can advertise and interview, Grissom said. The reason is because there are board seats up for election on Aug. 6, and the law is written that way so any new members can have input.
Regarding the interviews of the three finalists, Grissom said, “I wish you didn’t have to do everything in public,” but the interviews are open to the public. People running for election to the school board may attend these open meetings and hear the candidates being interviewed even though the new board members will not have been elected yet.
Campbell and Settles are running for re-election, while board member David LaRoche is not, according to the Rutherford County Election Commission ballot. There are four open seats. Also running for the board are incumbent Wesley Ballard and Jimmy Richardson, so there are no contested seats.
Grissom said that in voting for the final candidate, board members must write two nominees’ names on a piece of paper and sign it — the ballot may not be secret. Someone will read each nomination and the identity of the member who voted. The vote will determine the top candidate and contract negotiations will begin.
MCS SUPERINTENDENT TIMELINE
This is the planned timeline for Murfreesboro City Schools to hire its next superintendent:
June 23: Community meetings for Tennessee School Boards Association officials to receive opinions about superintendent’s criteria. TSBA officials will meet with the city council and business leaders that day as well.
June 26: The board will hold a Zoom meeting to adopt criteria from the community meetings. The TSBA then will advertise the job and accept applications.
Aug. 11: The board will meet to select the three finalists.
Aug. 17-19: One candidate will be interviewed each day. He or she will be interviewed later each day by the board. Interviews are open to the public.
Sept. 10: The board will vote to make a job offer.
Oct. 1: The latest date by which the board would like the new superintendent to start.