Mayor: Keep superintendent search open

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

to public

By SAM R. HALL/The Demopolis Times

DEMOPOLIS &045; Mayor Cecil Williamson had a simple request for the Demopolis Board of Education: keep the search for the next superintendent open to the public.

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The board of education will seek the district’s first new superintendent in 26 years to replace Dr. Wesley Hill, who will retire at the end of this academic year.

Williamson said she believes the city school district is the driving force behind the city’s success in economic development, and she credits Dr. Hill’s work as superintendent for much of that success.

For that reason, the mayor hopes the board will seek out someone with &8220;proven leadership, vision and creativity.&8221;

The mayor, who said she doesn’t &8220;have a candidate in this race&8221;, said she hopes the school district once again rises above the &8220;good ol’ boy or good ol’ gal network&8221; to find the right person.

Board Chairman Gary Holman said the board &8220;shares the same views.&8221;

The mayor said she has followed the proceedings in Montgomery County, where the board of education went through an open selection process to choose their next superintendent after a protracted and publicly messy firing of their former superintendent.

The mayor outlined the process the Montgomery County board used with the finalists, which included a morning meeting between the candidates and city leaders, an afternoon public meeting where the school board interviewed the candidates and an evening public meeting where the board members asked the candidates questions provided by the public.

During a break in the meeting, Holman said the position here has been posted and the district is already accepting applications. He said the board should start interviewing candidates in January.

Holman said the board has not finalized their plans for conducting the search and interview process, but pointed to a closed process they used for hiring two recent principals.

The mayor told the board that her urging of an open process was based on the importance of a strong school system for the sake of the city.

After the meeting, Dr. Hill said the board has already started thinking about the kind of candidate they are seeking out. He said the board prefers someone with a doctorate and a person who has had &8220;good, hard building experience&8221; in a comparable district.

Holman said the board will keep an open mind in their search and not limit their field to absolute qualifications. He expects the board will look throughout the southeastern portion of the United States to find the next superintendent.

The brochure being distributed to candidates says, &8220;Applicants must have at least five years of successful administrative experience as a principal, supervisor or superintendent. Experience in a very challenging position will be noted. A doctorate is helpful but not required.&8221;

According to Dr. Hill, his successor will face challenges in a teacher shortage and possibly higher turnover among administrators with a change in state law. New principals can no longer be tenured; instead they work on a contract basis.

Dr. Hill, who came to Demopolis from Georgia, is only the second superintendent to lead the district since 1966. He replaced Dr. A.A. Knight, who served for 14 years.

While Dr. Hill has not formally tenured his notice of resignation to the board, he began telling people of his decision at the beginning of the year. He expects his last day will be June 30, 2007.