A retired Marine who advised Obama could be the next superintendent of Hamilton County Schools

Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith, third from right, waits with school board members for their meeting to start on Jan. 21. Seated from left are Rhonda Thurman, Karitsa Mosley, David Testerman, George Ricks Sr., Smith, Dr. Jonathan Welch and Donna Horn.

John Cosgrove has removed his name from consideration to be the Hamilton County Schools interim superintendent, leaving Shaun Sadler as the sole candidate.

Hamilton County Board of Education Chairman Jonathan Welch said people can apply for the position through Friday, and the school board is scheduled to vote Monday on Superintendent Rick Smith's future.

If the board votes to fire or buy out the remainder of Smith's contract - at $269,000 - an interim superintendent will need to be named by the school board.

Regardless of whether the board votes to accept the buyout, school officials say Smith will receive a payout of more than $234,000 in vacation pay and about $6,800 in sick pay. He will also receive an annual pension estimated to be around $95,000 because of his more than three decades of service to the school system.

Bill Kilbride, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said representatives and members of the school board asked the chamber to bring forward names of candidates for the board to consider. They asked for someone with experience in managing large budgets, skilled with organizational management and capable of supporting the school system's large number of employees.

Welch released a statement Thursday afternoon clarifying that the decision about the interim superintendent is up to the school board.

Speaking for himself, not the school board, Welch said he appreciates the Chamber and any other organization brining candidates to the board's attention.

"I would say that is a large part of the Chamber's role in the community, to identity and help match talent to business," Welch said.

Kilbride said he developed a list of names, but ultimately decided to provide the school board only with Sadler's name, believing he is best qualified to lead the system during the months ahead.

Sadler is a retired commanding officer with the United States Marine Corps, leading Marine Aircraft Group-39, the largest aircraft group in the Marine Corps. Before that, he was the chief of staff of the Marine Aircraft Wing in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, serving as an advisor to President Barack Obama.

During his more than 27 years in the military he managed large budgets and troops, and his resume boasts of leadership and management experience.

Kilbride said several school board members have responded positively to the idea of Sadler being named interim chief. He added that Sadler's lack of experience in education is not a strike against him.

"We already have great educators," Kilbride said. "What I would focus on [in choosing an interim superintendent] is the ability to deliver on these qualities."

Sadler, a graduate of Hixson High School, previously told the Times Free Press that both of his parents and his wife are educators.

He said, if he is selected for the position, it would be important to him to work in partnership with the school board and the community, adding that Chattanooga 2.0, a local initiative to improve public education and better prepare the county's workforce, could be a huge asset to the school system.

Jared Bigham, director of Chattanooga 2.0, said he thinks Sadler would be a great fit for the position.

"I can't imagine a better interim person to set the table for the full-time person than someone with extensive military experience, especially around logistics and organizational management around human capital and large budgets," Bigham said.

Dan Liner, president of the Hamilton County Education Association, said he, too, supports Sadler as the next interim superintendent.

"Even though Mr. Sadler does not have a background in education, he is a proven military leader, having managed more than 4,800 personnel and a budget of $49 million. He understands that a quality public school system is one of the key factors that impacts a prosperous economy - a principle advanced in Chattanooga 2.0," Liner said. "His willingness to accept the huge challenge of leading an underfunded school system saddled with the lowest test scores of any metropolitan school district in the state is a testament of the impact he believes he can have on improving the state of education in Hamilton County."

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6592. Follow on twitter @kendi_and.

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