By John Coffelt, Staff Writer
Manchester City Schools unanimously voted to formally approach former district superintendent Dr. Keith Brewer to enter into negotiations with him for the Director of Schools position.
Chairman of the Board Susan Wood said in her motion, “If the terms are within our reach, the board attorney, Mr. Williams, will work with Dr. Brewer on a proposed contract that to present to the board for further actions at our next meeting.”
Brewer recently announced his retirement from a position as deputy director Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents.
“I cannot image anyone more qualified to take this position,” Wood said.
“I worry that if we don’t formally approach him now the opportunity to hire him will pass us by since he is being actively recruited by other school districts.”
The vote to negotiate with Brewer comes without performing a search for the position.
The motion stipulates that he will start on July 1, 2013.
The board held a special work session early Tuesday to discuss the legality of not performing a search.
Several board members expressed some concern with filling the position without a search.
Williams advised the board during the work session that policy does not mandate a search.
“You certainly have the authority to deal with the Director of Schools [position]. If you have a qualified candidate that the board is interested in, you have the authority to go to that person and see if [he or she] is interested.”
Williams said that essentially the position could be filled with a motion, a second and a passing vote during a formal meeting, although at the board meeting the board only elected to enter into negotiations with Brewer.
“Ultimately, it’s the board’s authority to appoint a Director of Schools… whether there’s a search or not.”
During the work session, board member Lisa Gregory said, “I know we have an interested party, but I know that we have other people who are interested as well.”
Board member Mike Lewis agreed.
“We gain cutting out a lot of the hassle if we talk to someone who has expressed interest, but at the same time, I do know we lose some appearance of transparency,” he said.
“If we approach one person, we eliminate anyone else from applying.”
Board member Susan Parsley expressed concerns about the mudslinging that surfaced during past director searches.
“I attended the last one; it was bad.”
Gregory said that a search would provide the public, parents and teachers a chance to be heard.
Former Directors, then Superintendents Brewer and Dr. Billy Pack were appointed without a search.
No action was taken on earlier discussion on a suggested pole that would have asked the community for input on the position.
“I was one of the ones pushing for that,” Lewis said, “but I’ve come to where I’m okay with moving ahead.”
This initial motion counters some discussion held during the work session of the possible buyout of Director of Schools Dr. Prater Powell’s contract that will end June 30. Powell earlier announced this would be his last year.
“There have been a lot of comments about buying Dr. Powell’s [contract] out on Dec. 31,” Wood told the other members of the board.
Williams advised the board that what he is hearing from the members is not for a specific action item, but a request for advice about proper procedure.
“You have a contract through June 30. The contract provides that you can provide [a 60-day] notice, but you still have to pay through the end of the contract.”
“I like the idea of a transition plan, especially in the springtime because that’s when all the plans are made for the future,” said Lewis.
The members expressed concern about paying two Directors for six months.
“What would the benefit, if any, that we would get of a transition period worth the expense of paying two directors of schools for six months?” Gregory asked.
“We can afford just about anything we want,” Wood said. “We could make some sort of arrangement.
Gregory also cautioned that the board should be careful not to tarnish the years of service that Powell has provided the system.
“I’m not interested doing anything that will embarrass him or make look like something has happened that hasn’t happened. I think that would make us look bad,” she said.
Brewer was superintendent of the district for 12 years before leaving to take a Deputy Commissioner of Education for the state.
Director of Special Education Anita Brewer, said that she would step down to avoid any possible conflicts of interest if Brewer accepts the position.
Should the Manchester City School Board seek public input in hiring a new director of schools?
Total Voters: 76