Interviews begin with Espy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &045; Dr. Isaac Espy believes personnel is the key to meeting future challenges in the public schools here.

Dr. JoAnn Horton said setting good policies and working within the framework of a long-term, strategic plan will best serve the districts.

Last night, the two educators became the first candidates interviewed to replace outgoing Superintendent Dr. Wesley Hill, who is retiring after 29 years of service. Espy and Horton were questioned separately for approximately and hour each by Dr. Neil Hyche, a former Tuscaloosa County superintendent who has been hired to lead the search process.

Email newsletter signup

Espy: School’s strength in community

Espy, the principal of Demopolis High School, said the district will face many challenges over the course of the next few decades. From changing enrollment patterns to an increasingly diversified population, Espy said the school system must be ready to adapt as they continue to serve the needs of the community.

Espy said the district is staffed in such a way now that if key people were to leave that he doesn’t know how the system would adapt without &8220;intense personnel attention from a whole lot of people.&8221;

Espy also discussed an approach he uses at the high school to building better group leadership.

Espy said he would also seek to have better communication between the four schools.

Espy said he also would want to continue the work Hill has done in fostering good community support for the schools.

Espy said he has been most impressed by the level of community support for the school system and believes it to be essential to their continued success.

Horton believes in strategic planning

Horton, an assistant principal at Foley Elementary School, focused on the need to set a strategic plan and use it as a roadmap under new leadership.

Horton said the school systems today must develop five-year plans, assess and update them annually and use then use them effectively to dictate the course the district takes. Key in developing and implementing these kinds of plans, Horton said, is including a great number of people.

Horton said that the district must also be flexible enough to adapt and change as emergencies arise or trends change.

Horton also focused on working with the state Department of Education and utilizing evaluations they require as tools to help further develop teachers and plan better curriculum to help students pass state and national tests.

One area Horton believes is key for future educational development is making sure that teachers are provided training to stay ahead of the technological curve.

Horton said her school adopted a mentoring program where &8220;younger teachers with more technological skills tutored older, more established teachers who were not as up-to-date on technology.&8221; She said the program has been a big success.

Both share support for leaders

The two candidates hit several of the same chords &045; especially in addressing the need to let principals have administrative control over policies for their schools.

Both Espy and Horton said they would want to be aware of policies, curriculum and plans at each school but that they would not intervene in the day-to-day duties of a principal unless a need arose.

The two also spoke to the need of watching enrollment patterns to help determine what construction and renovation projects would be needed in the coming years.

Interviews continue today

Interviews will continue tonight. Dr. Tony Speegle will be the next to be interviewed, starting tonight at 5:15 p.m. Speegle is the principal at U.S. Jones Elementary School.

Edward Brown will follow Speegle at 6:30 p.m. Brown is the principal at Bibb County High School.

The next set of interviews will take place on March 13-14.

On Tuesday, March 13, the board of education will interview Lawrence Vickers, the principal of Hillcrest Middle School in Tuscaloosa County, and Dr. Douglas Lee Ragland, superintendent of Greene County Schools. On Wednesday night, the board will interview William Holiday III, principal of Oxford High School, and Ronald Roberts, the former principal at Demopolis High School. All interviews are open to the public.