Annette Knox rounds out superintendent candidate interviews

Published 9:30 pm Thursday, July 24, 2008

Annette Knox was the final voice in the Selma City Schools system’s process to hire a superintendent.

She interviewed for the position Thursday evening at Striplin Performing Arts Center.

Knox was an assistant principal and principal in New York City, a regional superintendent in Cleveland, Ohio, and superintendent in Camden, N.J.

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She retired her position in Camden, and took a two-year hiatus following the death of her husband.

She wanted to return to school administration, particularly in the South, and a consultant recommended five school districts to her. Selma was one of them.

“Selma’s the size district where one can really make an impact,” said Knox.

She said the community must help create vision. Knox believes in using town hall meetings, media and newsletters (produced in different languages if need be) to communicate that vision.

“It can’t just be the superintendent and board,” said Knox said to about 20 people in the audience. “Vision has to come from all stakeholders.”

She stated that the board sets district policy, and it will be fully informed prior to decisions.

Knox stressed the importance of school law. She expressed a need to ensure that the whole district had necessary legal information, and to ensure that the staff is provided with professional development in school law.

“It’s very important for a superintendent to know schools law from beginning to end,” said Knox. “We need to be aware of what is constant and what is changing.”

To improve the district, Knox wants to implement a strategic plan that involves all parts of the community. She wants Selma City Schools to switch to a unified approach. Such changes would include all grade levels using the same textbooks and curriculums. She also expressed a desire to make learning inclusive for all groups.

Knox believes in using data as a tool to gauge student progress..

“Data is what should drive instruction,” said Knox. “It is critical.”

Small learning communities could improve attendance, according to Knox. She talked of the need to shift from away from the large high school setting. She said students need to be approached from their interests.

On the subject of saving money, she returned to her support of a unified approach. The same grades using different programs and books can hurt the budget, as can people who are paid from the wrong line — someone who can be paid through federal money being paid through state or local money. The school board would receive a fiscal report at each budget meeting.

She feels that her staff should be trusted to do assignments and report back periodically. She wants communication with board members and weekly a meeting with the central office staff. She also wants to institute a monthly meeting with principals to discuss curriculum, instruction and hot issues.

Knox stated she is proudest of creating a pool of principals in Camden, preventing the school board from scrambling to replace outgoing principals. She also said she wants to bring people in from the outside to see what is taking place.

“School districts have to change their image,” said Knox. “They need to bring outside people into the fold to get things done.”

She also believes her greatest strength is not giving up.

“I may not be able to do it one way, but I will find another way to get it done,” said Knox.