Donnie Cherry hired as new director of schools



CELINA-The search for a new Clay County director of schools ended here at the January school board meeting, with Hermitage Springs School principal Donnie Cherry hired for an 18-month term.

Cherry’s hiring ended two months of a search to replace retiring director Dr. Doug Young, who announced his retirement at the board’s November meeting. 

A meeting between Young and Cherry was tentatively scheduled for Monday to work out the transition. 

After a special December meeting ended in a voting deadlock between Cherry and Anna Locke, it took the board only four votes and roughly 20 minutes to eliminate the other three finalists for the job and to hire Cherry, a longtime Clay County educator and coach. Following the procedure at the December meeting, the candidate receiving the fewest number of votes was eliminated after each round last Thursday. 

All four finalists for the job–Cherry, Locke, Jerry Strong and Champ Langford–were brought back to be voted on again at the January meeting. This time around, Cherry and Strong wound up as the finalists. Langford was the first of the four finalists to leave the running, and Locke, who twice came within one vote of the seven necessary to be hired at the December special meeting, was out of the running after three votes. 

The first vote saw Cherry with five “yes” votes, Langford three, and Locke and Strong with five each. On the second vote, Cherry received six votes, with Locke and Strong getting five each, leaving those three in the running. The third vote had Cherry with six, Strong with five and Locke with four, narrowing the field to two. 

Cherry was hired on the first vote between him and Strong, as he received the board-mandated seven “yes” votes. Voting for Cherry were Roberts, Hammock, Anthony Smith, Annette Smith, Daniels, Dillehay and Cherry, with West, Donaldson and Boles voting no.  Strong received four “yes” votes in the final round. 

“I appreciate the support (of the board), and I’ll do the best job I can,” Cherry told board members just after the hiring. 

Before the voting on the individual candidates started, the board had voted 9-1 to  hire the new director to finish the current school year and for the next full school year, basically an 18-month period. 

The board also negotiated Cherry’s salary for $68,500 (plus benefits), a bit above the state-mandated minimum of $67,193. That was passed by a 7-3 vote. 

Young, participating in his last board meeting as director, said he appreciated the three different school boards he had worked with during his three-and-a-half years on the job. 


Young and the board also acknowledged the retirement of central office staffer Joy Key, who is retiring after 30 years, and thanked her for her service.