Smith could lead schools by early July

Smith could lead schools by early July

June 15th, 2011 by Adam Crisp in News


For policy change: Rhonda Thurman, Everett Fairchild, David Testerman, Mike Evatt and Joe Galloway.

Against policy change: George Ricks, Jeffrey Wilson and Linda Mosley.

Not present: Chip Baker.

Interim Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith is one step closer to taking over the school system's top job permanently.

Hamilton County Board of Education members voted 5 to 3 Tuesday night to change their policy on hiring a superintendent, allowing for just a 15-day notice before installing a new superintendent.

Currently, board rules call for a series of meetings, the approval of a timeline, a possible outside search, public interviews and then a selection. Tuesday's vote allows the board to waive all those steps and simply select a new superintendent.

In late May, the board voted to buy out the contract of Superintendent Jim Scales. A $300,000 package that included pay, benefits and attorney's fees was offered to Scales, who in turn left the job a year earlier than his contract stipulated.

On Tuesday, board members Rhonda Thurman, Everett Fairchild, David Testerman, Mike Evatt and Joe Galloway voted to change the policy. George Ricks, Jeffrey Wilson and Linda Mosley voted no. Chip Baker was not present.

Board policy also states an interim candidate should not be considered for the permanent job unless the board specifically allows that person to do so. Policy also calls for the superintendent to hold a doctoral degree, but it's not a requirement. Smith is interim, but some board members have openly said they want him in the job permanently, and he also just has a master's degree.

"We don't bring someone in from the outside to be mayor or to run for County Commission. I don't know why the school superintendent has to be any different," said Thurman, who has long favored Smith for the superintendent's job. "I don't know why we need to do interviews. ... We have someone who has been interviewing for 25 years."

Smith has served in various administrative roles in Hamilton County since the 1980s. Until Scales's departure, Smith was the No. 2 man at the central office. He took over as interim superintendent on June 10, the same day Scales left.

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce has said it favors a national search for a new superintendent, and board member Linda Mosley continued on Tuesday to insist on a search, even if it finds that Smith is the most qualified candidate.

"Why do we want to forgo this process? I have a hard time understanding why we're in such a hurry," Mosley said. "Even if you don't want to go national, why not statewide ... just to prove that (Smith) is the right person."

Board members could vote to give their 15-day notice at the next school board meeting on June 21, but Evatt, who was selected as the board's new chairman Tuesday night, said he's not entirely sure he'll push for Smith's selection to be on the agenda.

On Tuesday, Fairchild said he favors a workshop to work out the board's priorities in selecting a new superintendent. That notion had support, but no board member formed a motion to set a date.

As it stands now, if the board votes to move ahead, Smith could be the system's top administrator by July 6.