Clay County School Board grants 5 interviews

Local trio and 2 others will vie for director job Jan. 26

By THOMAS P. WEAVER

HORIZON Editor

CELINA-Five director of schools applicants will receive interviews here at a special called meeting of the Clay County School Board on Thursday, January 26, according to information released along with a public notice of the meeting by the school system’s central office last Friday.

The board granted locals Anna Ruth Locke, Champ Langford, and Jerry Strong, along with Myles Hebrard of Powell, TN and Craig Lynn of Sparta, TN, interviews at last Thursday night’s regular monthly meeting.

A list of a dozen applicants hoping to replace the retiring Donnie Cherry as the leader of education here in Clay County was narrowed to five at the meeting and board members then voted to set the interview date, which at that time was two weeks away.

The special called meeting is open to the public and will begin at 6 p.m. here in the board room at 520 Brown Street.  The public notice of the meeting found on page __ of this week’s HORIZON not only says “the board will conduct interviews,” but also says they will “consider hiring a director” at the meeting.

Cherry, who received a two-year extension in January of 2010 taking his current contract through June 30, 2012, is set to retire this spring after serving as a Clay County educator for nearly 40 years.  His retirement announcement came just minutes before results from the board’s evaluation of his directorship were set to be released at the December, 2011 meeting.

Since then, the board has wasted no time in the search for a new director of schools.  They immediately made plans to advertise the opening just minutes after Cherry’s announcement, set January 6 as a deadline for applications, and cut it to the final five last week, all of which occurred within a one-month period.

WIth interviews taking place next week, residents here may be introduced to their new director of schools before month’s end, but if the process mirrors the one when Cherry was originally hired it could take much longer.

Current applicants Langford, Locke, and Strong were a part of the final four back in 2009 when Cherry was hired to finish out the 2008-09 school year and the following one (18 months).

At that time, the actual process took two months with multiple meetings needed to decide the new director.  After the applicant list was narrowed to four and interviews were held, two meetings were needed for Cherry to be hired.

The first ended in a deadlock between Cherry and Locke after three votes were taken.  Neither received the required seven votes needed, but Locke got six votes twice.

At the second meeting, all four candidates were again in the running, but Cherry and Strong become the finalists.  The current director then received the board-mandated number of votes and took the job.

See next week’s HORIZON for news from the actual minutes from the January meeting and more updates regarding this ongoing story.