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VOL. 124 | NO. 41 | Monday, March 2, 2009

SCS Superintendent Search Differs From MCS Approach

By Bill Dries

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If one wanted proof of just how different Memphis City Schools are from Shelby County Schools, it could start with the way each school system goes about selecting superintendents.

Each of the school systems has a superintendent appointed by its respective elected school board.

But each board has historically used very different methods for filling the job.

The city school system hired a search firm to round up a list of applicants from across the country when Dr. Carol Johnson left last year to head the Boston school system. They came to terms with Dr. Kriner Cash in June. In the interim between Johnson and Cash, the board hired former school system administrator Dan Ward to serve as interim superintendent.

On Thursday, the county school system started up its process for selecting a superintendent when Dr. Bobby Webb turned in his letter of resignation effective June 30.

The Shelby County school board decided at a meeting the same day the letter was released that it will conduct its own search for a new superintendent, and the search will be confined to West Tennessee.

The board will act as its own search committee and will seek help from the Tennessee School Boards Association. Board members also voted to pay no more than $1,000, not counting expenses, for the TSBA’s help.

The deadline for candidates to apply is March 13, suggesting the board intends to pick Webb’s replacement possibly by the time his retirement kicks in.

Shelby County school board chairman David Pickler is currently TSBA chairman. Because of that, Pickler recused himself from a vote on the terms of the search for Webb’s successor.

Board member Teresa Price moved and the board approved limiting the search applicants to those living in Tennessee within 200 miles of Shelby County.

“I think we’ve got very qualified people in our area,” Price said during the discussion at Houston High School.

Webb came to the school system in 2002 from being superintendent of the Lauderdale County school system.

Webb has been on medical leave for an undisclosed illness since late last year. Pickler said Webb intends to return to work on a limited basis after the March spring break for students.

Pickler did not go into detail about Webb’s medical condition. He said Webb’s condition is “not life threatening” and that Webb is “improving” after undergoing surgery.

Former Houston High School principal and current assistant superintendent John Aitken has been serving as interim superintendent.

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