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Hartselle Enquirer

Agenda set for school post job interviews

By Staff
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle's school board decided the who, when, where and how of the personal interview phase in a search for a new school superintendent during a three and one-half hour meeting Monday night.
On a vote of four to one, the board approved interviews with six candidates, including William Booth, head baseball coach and math teacher at Hartselle High School. Booth was granted conditional interview status at the board's Nov.16 meeting even though he was ranked 13th among 14 candidates by a 10-member, board-appointed screening committee.
Others to be interviewed were ranked second through sixth on the committee's list. They are William Michael Reed, Joe Walters, Jeremy Jones, William David Burns and S. Joanne P. Horton. Walters is principal of Crestline Elementary School and Jones is a former principal of Danville-Neel Elementary School who is now a member of the Morgan County School system's central office staff.
The interviews will be conducted at Hartselle Junior High School on Jan. 4, 6, 10, 11, 18 and 20.
They will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will be open to the public. Walters, who was present at the meeting, confirmed his availability for an interview on Jan. 6. Tentatively, other interviews will be conducted as follows: Jan. 4-Booth; Jan. 10-Jones; Jan. 11-Reed. Jan. 18-Burns; and Jan. 20-Horton.
Out-of-town candidates will be lodged at the Oden House Bed and Breakfast for two nights. Prior to their interview, they will be given a guided tour of the central office and schools, treated to lunch, offered a guided tour of the city and introduced to the public at a meet and greet reception from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Board members reached a consensus on what questions to ask the candidates after reviewing lists of questions that were used during prior superintendent interviews in Cullman and Auburn. They also considered their own proposed questions as well as those submitted by one member of the screening committee.
The approved list contains about 55 questions.
The questions will be divided equally among board members and all candidates will be asked the same questions.
A 30-minute discussion preceded the board's decision to interview Booth.
"It's your responsibility to hire a superintendent and you have the authority to do what you want to do," said board attorney Bill Shinn, "but I caution you about interviewing anyone for the job as a matter of courtesy. If you don't consider that person to be a viable candidate, you may be bypassing those who are and you might possibly incur some legal liability."
He added, "What I'm saying is that legally you can do it but there is a remote possibility that there might be some legal consequences."
Chairman Ronnie Abercrombie pointed out that in a conversation he had earlier in the day with Sandra deGrafenreid, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards, she said since they were ranked numerically, she would not recommend skipping from sixth to 13th in order to interview Booth. He added, "She said we could possibly be buying trouble."
Board member Jeff Gray said he could think of no other school system that has refused to interview a qualified local candidates for superintendent.
"What if we disagree with the committee's rankings?" he asked Shinn.
"You have that prerogative," Shinn replied.
"I thought we told the committee that we would interview all local candidates if they are qualified," board member Kathy Goodwin said.
Board member Andy Dukes added, "As long as a local candidate is qualified, we need to give them the opportunity to be interviewed. You want the people in your school system to aspire to be the best they can be."
After the motion was made and seconded to interview Booth, Gray stated, "I'd like for the record to show that the reason we are interviewing Coach Booth is that we disagree with the rankings of the committee and that some of his qualifications exceed some of those ranked in the top five."
"I want the record to show that I vigorously object to going against the advice of the School Board Association," Abercrombie said.
Board members agreed to have a staff member videotape the interviews. They also reached a consensus to avoid making individual scores of candidates a matter of public record.
Shinn said information recorded on a score sheet is personal property as long as it is not tabulated and made a part of a whole.