Board selects Shirley superintendent of education

Published 12:34 am Friday, May 18, 2012

Selma City Schools interim superintendent Gerald Shirley came to the realization late Thursday evening, he needed to get a new batch of business cards. During a called meeting of the Selma City School Board Thursday, Shirley had the interim title removed from his title as the board named him the system’s next superintendent of education.

After spending the better part of a half hour reviewing the files and resumes of six applicants who sought the job, the board came to the realization a heating political climate in Selma and a pending election for the school board may not be the best time to bring someone from outside the system.

Plus, it turned out, Shirley — the longtime principal of the School of Discovery and interim superintendent since October — wanted the job.

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“About the first week in May, I decided that I wanted more time to do the things I wanted to do in this job,” Shirley said. “I want to find ways to bring more technology into the system and create an atmosphere that does one of three things for those who graduate: makes them ready for the workforce, helps them on to a two-year career technical program or on to a four-year school.”

Shirley has been with the Selma City School System for 37 years, working as a teacher and administrator at many of the system’s schools, before being named to the superintendent post in late October on an interim basis.

Shirley will now replace the former superintendent Dr. Donald Jefferson, whose contract was terminated by the board in October.

But the board also decided Thursday it was not the best time to hire a superintendent to a full, three-year contract. In this case, the board decided to hire Shirley to a 15-month contract.

The reason? It’s an election year.

“This is a good compromise and gives us a chance to get through the August election and give the new board — if there is one — the chance to determine if they want to move on with Mr. Shirley for longer or if they want to begin a search for a different superintendent,” board president Henry Hicks Sr. said following the meeting. Hicks was the lone board member to vote against the measure.

The series of events that led to Thursday’s decision began with the board’s dismissal of Jefferson in October. Now, the board says, it’s time for the board, the school system and the community to move forward and come together.

“We have to have stability in the Selma City School System. We have had a lot of months of chaos, lies and bullying, and downright foolishness. We’ve got to get together and get to the business of educating our children,” board member Brenda Randolph Obamonu said. “We need to move forward. Mr. Shirley has been a great administrator for a long time. He is highly respected in Selma and I am confident he will do a good job.”

For Shirley, a native of Aliceville and a graduate of Alabama State, he was surprised and appreciative to the board for giving him the opportunity.

“Selma City School System has been good to me. It has allowed me to earn a living,” Shirley said. “I hope that I can contribute a fraction back to Selma City Schools of what the system has contributed to me to make this society better, then I think we will be successful. I want to again thank you for allowing me the chance to serve.

“The world doesn’t owe me anything. If anything, we owe the world for allowing us to live in it. Again, Selma doesn’t owe me anything, I owe Selma a lot.”

The board will now work on finalizing the details of Shirley’s contract and hope to have it finalized and approved during a board meeting this summer. Board member Frank Chestnut Jr., the board member who made the motion to hire Shirley, was appointed by Hicks to lead the negotiations with Shirley.

“I think this is a good compromise and I hope Mr. Shirley will be given a longer contract down the road,” Chestnut said. “But, at this point, my task is to represent the board and to get this 15-month contract negotiated.”

The 15-month contract would cover the school system through the 2012-2013 school year to the start of the 2013-2014 school year.