By Talbert Toole
The Water Valley School District held a special interest meeting Monday night in the high school’s cafeteria regarding the district’s search for its next superintendent.
Attendees—which consisted of parents and community members—were able to write down qualifications they’d like to see in the district’s next superintendent. The responses will then be used as data by The Excellence Group LLC—a Jackson-based educational consulting organization that focuses on providing support to school districts, school administrators, and educators. The data would then be relinquished to the school board who will cross-reference with potential candidates.
This was the sole opportunity for parents and community members to offer the search group opinions and concerns, founder and co-owner of The Excellence Group, Charles Harrison said. He said those who missed the meeting should write their opinions or concerns directly to the school board.
Harrison and Eddie Prather—a member of the Excellence Group search team—asked attendees to focus on two key factors regarding the next superintendent: where do you want to see the school district in three years and what specific characteristics do you want in the superintendent?
“We need a vision of what that person should look like,” Harrison said.
WV Alderman Kagan Coughlin, who was present at the meeting, asked Harrison and Prather how the actual process works when searching for a superintendent within and outside the state.
Harrison said his group has less contact outside the state than it does inside. However, Harrison assured the attendees the group would spend the majority of its time on the front end analyzing what they are seeking in a superintendent.
“This [school] board has asked for what they call extreme vetting,” Harrison said. “It is our intent on whomever they narrow this down to look very closely at [his or her] background.”
Transparency with the parents and community would be key in the search process, Harrison said.
Coughlin raised the question of how Water Valley might look appealing to potential candidates who are interested in the position.
“We all know, because we choose to live here, that Water Valley looks better than it does on paper,” Coughlin said.
Harrison reassured the audience that he and his group would search for the best candidates that not only have the experience in education but have the ambition to move to the town.
The Excellence Group also met with teachers, without administration present, to see what characteristics each would want in their next superintendent.
Candidates must have experience in a successful district, Harrison said. Those who have worked in districts that have received an F rating would not be considered for the position.
Members of the school board are looking to hire someone by the first of May, they said. Advertising for the superintendent position will begin near the end of March followed by preliminary interviews.
Water Valley falls in the medium pay range ($115,000) when it comes to superintendent salaries, according to Harrison’s research.
“Our job is to make the school board’s job harder because we’ve put great candidates in front of them,” Harrison said.