School Board invites new applicants, revises timeline in search for superintendent

During an hour-long discussion with search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates (HYA) on Wednesday, June 28, the Memphis-Shelby County Schools Board reached a consensus on several key decisions regarding the superintendent search, including welcoming new candidates to apply. The Board confirmed its earlier decision to invite new candidates to the search pool and agreed on a revised timeline, giving national and local candidates a generous window to apply.

With the revised timeline, HYA will advertise and recruit candidates and screen applications from August to November. HYA President Max McGee, who made the presentation to the Board, shared that late fall is the peak season for applications because the rush of the new school year has subsided. It also gives applicants with children or hopefuls currently serving in other Districts the needed pause to prepare a thoughtful application. The Board would begin interviewing a slate of candidates as early as December, with a new superintendent starting in July, according to the proposed timeline. Extending the search will cost an additional $19,000. 

“I don’t think a price tag can be put on [placing] the best leader in front of this District,” said Board Chair Rev. Dr. Althea Greene.  

“I also want to thank those community members who came today to show us that you do care. Thank you so much,” added Chair Greene, acknowledging the dozen onlookers in the audience, some of whom attended the previous night’s meeting. 

During the Board Business Meeting on Tuesday, June 27, Board members voted to extend Interim Superintendent Toni Williams’ contract to Aug. 29, 2024. Extending Williams’ contract allows the school district to have leadership in place while the School Board continues its search to fill the role permanently. Additionally, Williams will not remain in the running for the permanent position. During her extension, she will continue to focus on supporting the District’s 110,000 students and 14,000 employees.  

                              Board member Frank Johnson                                                              Board member Michelle R. McKissack

Despite the back-to-back evening meetings, Board members were upbeat and forward-looking, encouraged by the additional clarity HYA’s presentation offered. Board members also expressed their excitement at interviewing both local and national candidates.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re not sending a narrative to national applicants that we’re only looking for a Memphis-based employee. At the same time, we must signal to lifelong, dedicated educators in Memphis that you too should apply,” said Board member Kevin Woods. “We should not be boxed in either way.” 

In addition to publicly welcoming candidates to the pool and reviewing a revised timeline, the conversation allowed Board members to discuss with McGee the rubric that the firm will use to rate candidates. At a Board Retreat earlier in June, Board members agreed that they want candidates to be assessed on the following skills and characteristics:

Ideal Superintendent Qualities 

A proven track record of successAbility to positively impact culture and climate
Evidence of courageous decision makingAbility to attract, retain and build team capacity
A strong academic visionA history of dynamic and adaptive leadership
Ability to demonstrate change managementStrategic leadership in budget and finance
A sound grasp of governance and board leadershipEvidence of community advocacy and political savvy 

McGee shared scenarios of each quality in action. For example, someone with strategic leadership in budget and finance may have led a successful capital campaign. A courageous decision-maker may have championed a new curriculum. And a leader dedicated to community advocacy may have hosted listening sessions, coffee gatherings, and community presentations, according to the HYA examples.

Board members Greene, Coleman, and Love

Keeping the community informed is not only important for the future MSCS Superintendent but also for the Board as the search continues, said Board Vice-Chair Joyce Dorse Coleman. 

“As we’re going through this, we want the community to know that we’re taking them along with us,” said Coleman. “It is important that we hear their voice while we make this decision.” 

Greene speaks with media after meeting                                   Huett-Garcia speaks with HYA President Max McGee


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