Clay County Schools Director search continues

By THOMAS P. WEAVER
HORIZON Editor

CELINA-The saga continued here at the February meeting of the Clay County School Board and the ongoing drama of hiring a new director of schools headed into another chapter as voting on the lone remaining finalist again hit a dead end prolonging the soon-to-be three-month process.
Several story-lines developed at the eventful meeting, but starting the entire process all over was the end result as the board voted to advertise the position for another two weeks and follow an identical path to try to hire a new director late next month.

Lynn bows out
The first development came immediately following the approval of the last two gatherings’ minutes.
Board chairman David West read a letter submitted to the board by director finalist Craig Lynn announcing he wished to remove his name from consideration in the search for a new director of schools.
“It’s with regret that I must remove my name from consideration,” West quoted from Lynn’s letter. “White County has offered me a new position and my wife has been diagnosed with a connective tissue disease.
“These factors have caused me to reassess my ability to continue forward with the process.”

Strong’s six
not enough
After reading the entire letter, West stated the obvious.
“That leaves us with one,” he said. “I will call the role and we will vote.”
Board members were instructed to vote either (Jerry) “Strong” or “no.”
As previously reported, Strong had received a solid five votes at the last meeting, but needed two more to be hired.
This time he heard the same five board members–West, fellow District 3 board member Todd Lynn, District 5 representatives Nathan Sherrell and Jerry Eads, and senior District 4 board member Dick Roberts–say his name, but he also heard one more vote of support last Thursday night when Heather Hammock of District 4 gave him six.
Unlike the previous votes, all board members participated last week. Senior District 2 board member Russell Cherry and vice-chairman Anthony Smith from District 1 both passed on the first votes last month, but this time they joined former Lynn supporters Veda Hix (District 2) and Annette Smith (District 1) voting “no.”
The final tally was six to four in Strong’s favor, but the board-mandated seventh vote eluded him and the hire was further delayed.

Policy change
is proposed
Other action was then proposed to continue the process with the board’s lone remaining finalist.
Roberts made a motion to change board policy regarding the two-thirds majority, otherwise known as a “super majority,” required by the local school board to hire a new director of schools citing the fact a simple majority (six out of 10) is all that is required by law to pass any other thing coming before the board.
Roberts said the change could be made by the board, because the additional requirement was previously instituted by the board.
His explanation garnered a second from Eads, but the vote yielded a 5-5 tie and failed with Roberts, Eads, West, Lynn, and Sherrell voting “yes,” and Annette Smith, Anthony Smith, Hix, Cherry, and Hammock voting “no.”
A motion made by Anthony Smith to advertise an interim position for two weeks was then put to a vote after Annette Smith seconded it, but the same failed result followed with an identical 5-5 tie.
Roberts then made a motion to “start all over” and “open it back up” by re-advertising the position to anyone interested in the job, including the candidates who applied the first time.
Annette Smith seconded the motion, but the vote followed the same path to another 5-5 tie with Roberts, Annette Smith, Hammock, Cherry, and Hix supporting the motion and Lynn, Sherrell, Eads, West, and Anthony Smith voting “no.”

Cherry passes
on interim spot
West then brought up the possibility of appointing someone “in house,” and Eads jumped on board making a motion to do so.
Anthony Smith then asked retiring director Donnie Cherry if he “would object” to being appointed to serve in an interim position.
“I would not be willing to commit at this time,” Cherry told the board. “I would have to think on it and talk to my wife–not at this time.”
Cherry’s response left Eads’ motion on the table without a second and a vote was not taken.

Board votes
to start over
Sherrell then made a motion to table the decision to the next meeting saying he felt “the board was deadlocked,” but Roberts began another dialogue asking if any of the members had “any suggestions” and asked them if there were “any other options” they could take.
Anthony Smith asked Roberts how long he wanted to advertise the position if it was “opened back up” to all candidates and began to reconsider his “no” vote made when Roberts first made the motion to do so.
They agreed to advertise for two weeks and set a schedule mirroring the last one for narrowing the field and granting interviews.
With Sherrell’s motion to table the decision failing due to a lack of a second, Roberts then made another motion to “start all over” with the process and advertise the position for two weeks.
This time Anthony Smith seconded the motion and got on board with Roberts, Anette Smith, Hix, Cherry, and Hammock. Eads, Sherrell, Lynn, and West voted “no,” but the board finally passed the first motion of the night by the 6-4 vote.

New schedule
The again open position was immediately advertised online after the meeting and a notice of the job vacancy appears in this week’s HORIZON on page ____. It says resumes will be accepted until 3 p.m. on February 24 and the board decided to narrow down the field to those who would receive interviews at their regularly scheduled meeting on March 8.
They also said they would schedule a special called meeting later that month where interviews will be held and the board will again “consider hiring” a new schools director.
Eads asked if interviewees from the first process would be reinterviewed if they reapplied and members of the board answered with a resounding “yes,” meaning familiar applicants could find themselves back in the running.
See a future HORIZON for more on this ongoing story and next week’s edition for reports on other action taken at the meeting.