With Sharon Spears retiring as director of attendance at the end of the semester, Coffee County Schools has a big position to fill in a short amount of time. To expedite the process, Director of Schools LaDonna McFall, using Deputy Director of Schools Joey Vaughn as proxy during the Monday, Nov. 12 board meeting, suggested the board change the requirements on the job posting.
The current posting requires the candidate to have a Master’s Degree with an emphasis on supervision administration with an attendance supervisor’s endorsement 094.
McFall’s suggestion for the board, as read by Vaughn, was as follows: “consider removing the requirement of a Master’s Degree as well as the supervisor’s endorsement 094 and replacing that with a bachelor’s degree with a teaching license preferred.”
“Dr. McFall wanted us to look at this today because of the time involved in replacing Ms. Spears with her leaving in December,” Vaughn added.
The deputy director explained other districts did not require a master’s degree to fill this position, though a majority of the schools he researched did require it. A neighboring county has a support staff person in the director of attendance role, but they are supervised by someone, he explained.
“There are places around who are not using an advanced degree person, but a majority do have advanced degree individuals in this job,” Vaughn said.
This job description was in place before the district hired Spears 20 years ago.
McFall’s suggestion was unpopular to present board members. Ester Sims was not at the meeting.
“I think this is a step down when we start taking away requirements for such an important position,” said board member Freda Jones. “I honestly, my personal opinion, I think it should have master’s degree plus the attendance endorsement just because there’s not that many around doesn’t mean we need to go backwards.
“I don’t think we need to go backwards,” she concluded.
Board member Pat Barton agreed and said having a master’s degree was essential for a supervisory position.
“The reason I say that is simply because the person who takes that job, they’re going to be supervising people,” Barton said. “They have to have a knowledge of having been in that classroom previously and then, tying in to your EIS (education information system) and all of the data systems that have to come through. They would be one that should be as qualified as any other person in this central office with a supervisory role and a master’s degree is required if the person wants to go back and get an administrative certificate. I’m just opposed to eliminating that.”
Coffee County’s Director 6-8 Curriculum and Instruction Testing Coordinator Dr. Stephen Blessing offered more information on the attendance supervisor’s endorsement 094. Two obtain it, the candidate needs an active teaching license, five years of teaching experience and eight semester hours earned from select categories, including counseling guidance, special education, community and school relations and more.
Other than Spears, one person in the district has this endorsement.
Vaughn explained anyone with a master’s degree and experience in counseling or special education would qualify for the endorsement.
The board still wasn’t convinced that the certification was obsolete.
“Just practically speaking, it sounds like something that wouldn’t be on as an initial requirement, but then if that person was the best, most qualified candidate, once they were hired, they were given X amount of time to achieve that endorsement,” Duncan said.
All of the board members agreed teaching experience was a must for any candidate looking to become director of attendance.
Therefore, all of them voted down McFall’s suggestion.
A new motion
To outline what she thought was best for the position, Duncan put out a new motion for the job description. She suggested the board vote to change the requirements to bachelor’s degree, with a master’s preferred, a teaching or other professional license such as a counseling license, to strike the endorsement all together, and add a required five years of classroom experience or other education/juvenile system experience.
“I would emphasis master’s preferred, because it is a supervisory role…I don’t foresee that Dr. McFall is going to settle for anyone less than a qualified person for this position, but I don’t want to create such a narrow description that we’ve eliminated some potentially very qualified people based on their experience,” Duncan explained.
The board, however, struck down her motion too, in favor of calling a special meeting and work session to sit down and understand the job position, state laws surrounding the position and more.
The date of the work session has not be set, as of press time.
Sharon Spears weighs in
As the current director of attendance, Spears offered her take to the Times on what was required to do her job well.
“I think a master’s degree is definitely a requirement, it doesn’t have to be in administration and supervision, though,” Spears said.
Because her job is largely supervising and ensuring all of the data she receives from departments is correct, she recommends the board require a master’s degree. Her work, if done correctly, is used to as a base for state funding.
“You have to be knowledgeable of the educational laws in order to support the schools and service the families properly,” she concluded.