The purpose for the Webster Parish School Board’s (WPSB) search committee meeting last night remains unresolved. The 30 minute meeting had one agenda item: decide upon a recommendation to present to the WPSB regarding the method of search to be used to look for a new superintendent.
“We have before us two options to present to the board,” WPSB President and committee member Charles Strong said.
“We can either recommend to the board to utilize the services of McPherson and Jacobson or to conduct the search ourselves, as a committee.”
Neither option will allow for the position to be filled by July 1, which became available after W.W. “Butch” Williams announced his retirement effective June 30.
“We need to have an interim in place by the end of May, before June,” said Business and Finance Director Crevonne Odom as she urged the committee to name an interim superintendent as soon as possible.“I have to change check signing and there are other details that need to be taken care of and these are not over night processes. We can not wait until mid June and think that it will be ready for July 1.”
The item to name an interim superintendent should be added to Monday night’s agenda, according to Williams.
Committee member Jerry Lott pointed out that the search committee should be pursuing the search by composing advertisements for the position, as the board voted to do at a previous meeting.
There was no further discussion on advertisements.
“We it is not like we are on a time line to do what we want to do,” committee member Frankie Mitchell said. “Now that she (Odom) is saying to get a interim.”
The committee was given a petition, signed by Webster Parish teachers and faculty, to review before making a decision.
“What I want to know is where did this (petition) come from?” Mitchell asked.
“The Principal’s Association made an announcement this morning that those were coming in and asked that we provide you copies of those,” Busby said noting that the association met Thursday morning.
Principals allowed teachers to review and sign petitions, which were then faxed to the central office and given to board members as requested by the principals association.
“We elect our board members to make reasonable, wise decisions in spending out tax money,” the petition read. “Twelve members are capable of choosing a superintendent for our schools, as has always been done in the past and is written policy.
“How can the school board members even think about spending these funds (approximately $16,000) to accomplish what is one of their major responsibilities?” it continued. “We plead with the WPSB that they not hire this outside consultant group.”
Mitchell suggested any petitions or surveys should be conducted by the committee.
“I think it could have been an activity the committee warranted and that would have been fine,” she said.
“That is a petition, and nothing the central office had anything to do with,” Williams said. “I have had several phone calls where people tell me how upset they are with this whole process. But I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Well that’s why it is conflicting,” Mitchell said. “Here we have something going around that is signed, but no one has signed this (the body of the petition). We don’t know if it is legit or what.”
“I see this as being totally legitimate and an expression of people that work for us,” Lott said.
“I’m asking who started it, who is the originator? And that is the only thing I want to know.”
“This is a freedom of expression and it does not bother me,” Lott said. “This is a group of employees who agreed to draft a document and other employees had the option to sign it or not.”
Lott went on to speak in opposition to hiring the consultants.
“The people I spoke to were strongly opposed to the idea of using money in this way,” he said. “We can, and have done, what the consultants are offering to do.
“We were elected to do this and I feel that responsibility as a board member,” Lott continued. “The people that I represent want me to vote for and support the best choice we have for a superintendent.”
Strong’s comments echoed Lott’s.
“I have yet to speak with anyone I represent that supports the idea of using the consultants,” Strong said. “I have been told bluntly and unanimously that ‘I thought that’s what we sent you down there to do.’
“Those are my feelings on it,” he concluded.”I would like to hear from everyone else and so we can make a recommendation.”
Lott and Strong said they will vote against using an outside service.
“What I don’t understand is here we have something (petition) that is supporting against them (consultants) and it was not the committee that sent out a survey.” Mitchelle said.
“Would the knowledge of the originator change the decision that is before us?” asked Strong.
“I would just like to know where it got started. That is the only thing I am worried about.”
Strong suggested to deal with the petition author separately and focus on making a recommendation.
Committee member, Malachi Ridgel, stated he would hold his opinion until the final vote.
“I have heard both sides,” he said. “I will wait to speak on this until after the committee makes a recommendation.”
Johnnye Kennon offered similar comments, saying she would wait to comment or vote.
As Strong adjourned the meeting Reverend Whitaker, of Victory Praise and Worship Center, addressed the board as a citizen and as a member of the media.
“This makes no since,” he said. “You are here for no other purpose than to make a recommendation to present to the board.”
The five-member search committee was unable to reach a conclusive recommendation.
Lott and Strong stated they are in opposition to the services of the consultants. Ridgel, Kennon and Mitchell desire to present both options to the board at Monday afternoon’s meeting.