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April 8, 2014

Candidates revealed for county schools’ superintendent

The five candidates up to become the next superintendent of the Cullman County Board of Education have been revealed, and the list includes a few familiar names.

Vinemont High School principal Dr. Brandon Payne, Lee County Schools director of student services and federal programs Dr. Jason Wright, Robertsdale High School Principal Dr. Craig Ross, Tuscaloosa City Schools assistant superintendent of curriculum Dr. Tena Elisabeth Davis and Northwest Georgia RESA principals’ center coordinator Dr. William Thompson McCown were the five finalists selected by the Alabama Association of School Boards.

The AASB conducted the search, vetted candidates and whittled down that list from a total of 22 applicants. Payne has been a teacher and administrator in Cullman County for more than a decade, while Wright is a former Cullman High School teacher who was a finalist for the Cullman City Schools’ recent superintendent opening. Every candidate has been a long-time educator and possesses both classroom and administrative experience.

The board plans to conduct interviews with the five candidates from April 22-28, and spend late April and early May checking references and conducting site visits. Board members hope to announce their selection in early May, while also negotiating a final contract.

With the interview process on the verge of heating up, AASB consultant Dr. Kendy Behrends encouraged the board to keep a level head and stay focused on the task at hand — finding the best candidate to take over the superintendent’s seat.

“Just keep an open mind, because there’s going to be a lot of chatter, and that’s normal,” she said. “Just remember this is a two-way process. You’re looking for the best match, and they’re trying to see if this is a place they’d like to work.”

The minimum salary for the position is $115,000, with a final contract negotiable based on experience and demonstrated success. A doctorate is preferred, but not required for consideration.

Traits identified as the most important for potential applicants include a demonstrated ability to raise achievement, strong instructional leadership skills, ability to lead the administrative team and evaluate personnel and programs effectively, a record of accomplishments in the candidate’s current position, strong financial management skills, a strong work ethic and a passion for education and leading and a commitment to treating stakeholders with fairness and respect.

All those points were developed from in-person interviews and an online survey conducted by the AASB, which saw more than 700 people participate.

Per state law, the new superintendent must have or be eligible for an Alabama certificate in administration, five years experience in a public school setting and a degree from a recognized four-year college or university.

Current superintendent Billy Coleman, who has volunteered to retire from his elected position to make way for the appointed superintendent under the newly created system, is set to retire July 1. Coleman and the school board petitioned the state legislature to make the change to an appointed superintendent, noting they believed it would be in the best interest of the system.

The new superintendent would then start on July 1, matching up with Coleman’s planned retirement date.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 134.

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