The Coffee County Board of Education narrowed down their list of applicants for director of schools from 16 to five during their work session on Monday, May 13. The finalists, which will move on to be interviewed but are not guaranteed for the job, are Kim Aaron, Dr. Charles Lawson, Dr. John Ash, Dr. Robert "Keith" Cornelius and Russell “Scott” Hargrove.
Those five all received four or more votes from board members.
“There’s nothing binding that these five here are going to be the director of schools. There’s nothing binding at all,” said board chairman Brett Henley said.
The sixteen applicants, in no order, are: Jill Potts, John Ash, James Francis, Greg Rockhold, Anthony Kinkel, Charles Lawson, David Martin, Joseph Miller, Russell Hargrove, Kimberly Aaron, Brian Norton, William Childers, William Elihue Gouge, Timothy Woodward, Deborah J. Lee-Nuzzi, and Robert Cornelius.
Each board member looked over the applicants and ranked them. How the board members voted is as follows:
Pat Barton: Aaron, Ash, Childers, Cornelius, Hargrove and Lawson.
Shannon Duncan: Lawson, Ash, Aaron, Russell, Francis and Cornelius.
Brett Henley: Aaron, Hargrove, Kinkel, Lawson, Martin and Miller.
Freda Jones: Aaron, Ash, Childers, Cornelius, Hargrove and Lawson.
Sandra Klonaris: Lawson, Ash, Aaron, Hargrove, Francis and Norton.
Gary Nester: Norton, Martin, Lawson, Miller, Cornelius and Aaron.
Ester Sims: Woodward, Rockhold, Norton, Miller, Cornelius and Aaron.
If the top five do not meet the board’s expectations, they will reopen the pool to other candidates who received two or three votes in total from the seven board members.
Top five candidates
In alphabetical order, here is a quick breakdown of the top five candidates.
Aaron is Coffee County Middle School’s principal. She was hired for this position on July 1, 2012. Aaron was named the principal of the year in 2014.
She taught grades 1, 4, 5 and 6 in addition to central office work, where she oversaw family resources and ESP. She has spent the past 19 years in administration – two years at East Coffee, nine at North Coffee and the past eight at CCMS.
She is a Manchester, Tenn. resident.
Aaron received her Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts from Tennessee Tech University.
Ashe is the principal for Central Magnet School Principal in Rutherford County. He ran for Rutherford County Director in 2018 and made it to the top three finalists, but the position was offered to Bill Spurlock.
He received his Doctor of Education from Tennessee State University, his Education Specialist degree from Middle Tennessee State University, a Master of Arts in Education from Trevecca Nazarene University and his Bachelor of Science from Tennessee Technological University.
He is a Murfreesboro, Tenn. resident.
Cornelius is the current attendance director for Coffee County Schools, a position he entered in December 2018. He formerly was assistant principal/instructional coordinator at Coffee County Central High School under Dr. Joey Vaughn, a position he began in July 2011.
A Manchester, Tenn. resident, Cornelius received his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science from Middle Tennessee State University. His doctorate in education came from Middle Tennessee State University.
Hargrove is the principal at East Lincoln Elementary in Tullahoma, a position he’s held for five years. He is a Tullahoma, Tenn. resident.
He previously worked in Rutherford County Schools as a social studies teacher. Hargrove has 29 years of education experience.
He received his Bachelor of Arts from Middle Tennessee State University and his Master of Arts from Tennessee State University.
Lawson is the principal at East Middle School in Tullahoma. He has 16 years of teaching experience in Idaho, Alaska and Tennessee. He also served as Tullahoma High School’s assistant principal for three years.
He is a Manchester, Tenn. resident.
He earned his Bachelor of Science from Middle Tennessee State University, his Masters and Ed.S. in Administration, Tennessee Technological University and his Ph.D., University of the Cumberlands.
During the Board of Education meeting following Monday’s work session, Coffee County Education Association President Mike Stein asked the board to allow him to sit on interviews to represent the faculty of Coffee County.
Henley explained he was worried it would set a precedent and would allow any stakeholder to interview the applicant. The motion failed with Barton and Jones being the only ‘yes’ votes. Duncan abstained.
Henley asked anyone who has questions for the applicants to reach out to him. He will try to ask everyone’s questions, time permitting. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
To compensate for the lack of stakeholder presence during the interview, meet and greets will be scheduled directly after the interviews.
Interview schedules are to be determined. However, the community is invited to attend an hour-long meet and greets after the two-hour interviews take place. This will allow stakeholders to meet the applicant and ask them their own questions, voice their concerns and get to know them.