Superintendent search continues

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 23, 2005

Last week the Dallas County Board of Education began the first step in what is expected to be a long and arduous process of finding a new superintendent.

Depending on how soon the board begins advertising for the superintendent’s position, the hiring process could take up to four or five months, according Dr. Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, executive director of the Alabama Association of School Boards.

Sims-deGraffenried met with board members on Wednesday to discuss the many paths they could take in seeking out a new superintendent.

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“You want to be as inclusive as you can,” Sims-deGraffenried advised board members. “Give folks an opportunity to express an interest. Don’t do any fancy searches. Just look and hire the best.”

Dallas County Schools Superintendent Wayne May announced his retirement at the Jan. 10 school board meeting.

May has been with the school system for 32 years and was appointed superintendent in 1991.

He inherited a system plagued with debt and with each passing year had been forced to make cuts in order to keep the system out of bankruptcy.

“He couldn’t get us out of dept, but he didn’t get us any deeper in debt,” said Ollis Grayson, board president.

The board has continued to support May’s work, however, and in April 2004 gave him a two-year contract extension and a $12,000 raise, from $96,000 a year to $108,000 a year.

Since that time, there have been some concerns about May’s health. This summer he had open-heart surgery after suffering a heart attack.

May said he had been contemplating retirement for the past two months before finally making a decision.

“After much consideration and prayer, I feel that I have made the right decision,” May said in a written statement.

Sims-DeGraffenried said the board has many options to consider when beginning the interview process, including appointing citizens to a search committee, hiring a national search company, or conducting their own interviews.

“This is a prevailing, challenging process that will ultimately unify the board,” she said.

Sims-deGraffenried said the board should require potential candidates to have at least a Master’s degree and a certain number of years of experience in an administrative position.

“A typical interview process, once you find the top four or five candidates, should take two or more days,” Sims-deGraffenried said. “The board should interact with the candidates and see them meet with the people of Dallas County.”

Grayson said four of the five school board members have conducted superintendent searches before, while board member Peggy Williamson was appointed the board only a few months ago.

“The board will get together again to determine which route we want to take on the interview process,” Grayson said. “We plan to keep the public informed on all of our decisions.”

Grayson said the board created a search sub-committee comprised of local citizens before they hiring May in 1991.

May’s retirement will be effective July 1,2005.

“Mr. May did a good thing by giving the board plenty of time to find his replacement,” Sims-deGraffenried said.