See TV 99 video of superintendent search meeting. Only the first two or three minutes of the meeting are not included in this video.
A meeting at 6 p.m., Monday night, February 13th, was billed as part of the search for a new school superintendent for New Albany.
The meeting, arranged by the New Albany School Board, was held at the Magnolia Civic Center, and was open to any any “community stakeholder” – parents, business owners, civic groups, and anyone else interested.
Two meetings were held earlier in the day for administrators, faculty and staff of the school system. A 3:30 PM meeting was open to building level administrators and Central Office support staff. The 4:30 PM meeting was open to New Albany School District faculty and staff.
The search is to identify and hire a new school superintendent to replace Superintendent Jackie Ford, who is retiring at the end of this school year.
Mississippi School Boards Association in charge of preliminary candidate search
Dr. E. Harold Fisher, who is “superintendent search consultant” for the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA), conducted the meeting, which was attended by 22 people, about a third of whom were current or retired faculty and staff of the New Albany School District.
Dr. Fisher retired in 2000 after 35 years as president of Blue Mountain College. He was assisted at the meeting by, “Harold, my son,[who] is here to help take notes and also to drive me.”
Dr. Fisher said MSBA had been contracted by the local school board to conduct the preliminary search for candidates. The New Albany board will make the final hiring decision from among the candidates recommended by MSBA
Fisher emphasized that he and two other MSBA persons — Michael Waldrop, executive director of the MSBA, and Denotris Jackson, assistant executive director of MSBA — would have full control of the preliminary search process and implied that no other candidates would be considered by the local school.
He said MSBA will conduct the preliminary interviews at its offices in Clinton.
Dr. Fisher ran a tightly controlled meeting Monday night and refused to take any questions until the meeting adjourned. He declared the intent to limit discussion to comments from the audience about characteristics a superintendent should possess. “Whatever it is you say, we write it down,” he said.
Something over half of the 50-minute meeting time was devoted to Dr. Fisher’s explanation of his role in the search process and to his extensive comments and opinions.
Community opinion is divided
It was clear from statements of members of the community that there are two distinctly opposed viewpoints regarding the superintendent search:
- One group was in favor of hiring a new superintendent from outside the local district.
- New Albany businessman Phil Morris expressed the desire to hire someone from outside the school district as the new school superintendent. Morris said he would “like to see someone with experience outside education,” someone with outside business and administrative experience, as the new superintendent. (Morris’s comments begin at about the twelve minute (12:00) mark in the TV 99 video.)
- The other group, made up mainly of current and retired local school employees, expressed preference for promoting someone from among current local school administrators.
- Phil Nanney, formerly a New Albany teacher and now the executive director of the Union County Development Association, spoke in favor of hiring someone from within the system. He said he would “rather see someone who came up through the ranks of our system than an outsider.” (Nanney’s remarks start at 15:45 of the video and continue to 18:30)
A local minister expressed a desire for a new superintendent who would support “the core values of faith that are vitally important to this community.”
Fisher responded with an anecdote: He said he had declared in a previous search meeting elsewhere that “of course we want somebody who is a Christian.” Fisher said that after that meeting “a Jewish lady said to me, ‘we are not going to sue you — this time.”’ The comment drew a laugh from the audience. Then Fisher said he had revised his approach to the matter. “I won’t say it, but I’ll think it,” he declared. (These remarks by Dr. Fisher occur at 32:55 of the video)
Fisher distributed a questionnaire for comments on the superintendent search. “They will come to me,” he said. The address to which the comments are to be mailed is a post office box in Ridgeland, a different address from that of the school board association in Clinton, Mississippi.
Three questions from NAnewsweb.com
Although he would not answer questions during the meeting, Dr. Fisher did take and answer three questions from nanewsweb.com after the meeting.
The first question: How many superintendent searches have you conducted. The answer: “about a hundred.”
The second question: What percentage of the candidates MSBA recommended to local school boards have been educators from Mississippi. The answer: “I’d say 90 percent.”
The third question: What percentage of recommended candidates have been from within the school system seeking a new superintendent. The answer: “About fifty percent.”