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May 16, 2013

Citizens chime in on CCS superintendent’s search

Though she retired years ago, former Cullman City Schools principal Jayne Barnett still maintains a vested interest in the area — and offered a few thoughts from her years of experience as to what traits are most important as the system prepares to hire its first new superintendent in more than eight years.

Barnett was among a handful of citizens at a public input meeting Wednesday, and noted whoever follows retiring superintendent Dr. Jan Harris will have “big shoes to fill” later this year. A consultant with the Alabama Association of School Boards, the group handling the search, was on hand to meet with several groups of stakeholders about what traits are most important for Harris’ successor.

“Someone coming in has to assume the role she’s established, but also establish their own identity,” Barnett said. “She’s established such a major role already, and an enormous factor for the next superintendent is to make sure the people of the city feel like they have an active role in the school system. They need to be a visionary, see past what is here now, and lay the groundwork for the future.”

While discussing the potential resume of Harris’ replacement, Barnett said she believes a well-rounded breadth of experience is vital to effectively manage a school system of this size.

“For me, what’s really important is we choose someone who has some grounding in every area, such as how to operate a high school and how things work at a middle school,” she said. “Someone with proven abilities at every level, and a deep understanding of how things work. “

Local resident Teresa McDaniel touched on her vision for the school system, and what she believes are the biggest issues facing the district in the coming years. For her, a renewed focus on career-tech and a stronger working relationship with local government is vital.

“We’re starting at a very high level already, but what are the goals for the school district, plus the city and the county?” she asked. “They’re trying to bring businesses here, and I see the strong emphasis for automotive and manufacturing, and what is the marriage between the city schools and the city? We need to go about educating that workforce of people who do want to stay here and have a good job. That’s so critical.”

The AASB’s on-hand consultant, Dr. Kendy Behrends, said the day-long series of meetings were designed to provide locals a chance to have their voices heard early in the hiring process. The notes given by attendees will be compiled in a report given to the school board.

“The point is to give people an opportunity to have input in a face-to-face way, where they can have some verbal and written input,” Behrends said.

The open position has been listed for a few weeks now, with a starting annual salary of $135,000, though the final pay scale will depend on the level of experience. School board president Suzanne Harbin said there has been a solid amount of interest in the position.

Potential applicants must be a graduate of an accredited four-year college, hold an Alabama certificate in administration and supervision, have three years of successful education experience and have no less than five years of experience in a public school setting.

Board members hope to have a list of at least five potential candidates by June 18, and conduct public interviews from June 25-28. Those interviews will also be recorded and posted online for any community members who are unable to attend.

If a suitable candidate is found during the process, the board plans to announce the new hire on July 16 with a tentative start date of September 1, which is also Harris’ last day. The board would likely offer a 3-5 year contract.

Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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