Interim not enough for Dallas County

Published 7:43 pm Friday, August 2, 2013

For the past several weeks, the next leader of Dallas County Schools has been a huge question mark. With Dr. Fannie McKenzie announcing plans to step down from the position, the board began a diligent search to replace her — which I commend them for.

However, after spending several hours interviewing candidates and holding two board meetings specifically scheduled to vote on a new superintendent, the board came to a conclusion that, well, they had no conclusion. While members Mark Story and Peggy Williamson endorsed assistant superintendent Don Willingham for the position, members Carolyn Bates and Roy Edwards had a different candidate in mind. Board President William Minor abstained from the vote, citing that he needed more time to make a clear decision.

After this split-decision meeting, I thought — like most others — the board would surely come to a decision at their next board meeting.

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I was wrong.

Within the first 10 minutes of the meeting, it became clear that the board didn’t have a clear frontrunner for the superintendent position, even though they spent an entire day dedicated to answering that exact question.

While I believe it’s important that school officials take their time in hiring leaders — especially the superintendent — there comes a point where we need to put personal feelings aside and voice our opinion as to who should fill the position, even if that opinion doesn’t match up with another board member.

Thankfully, the board did take a baby step in the right direction at their last meeting when they decided to appoint Willingham as interim superintendent. However, much like Edwards suggested, this title is simply a delay in making the ultimate decision on who will lead Dallas County Schools.

Before making the motion to vote on an interim superintendent, Edwards laid out his thoughts on the table and said what I think everyone else in the room was thinking — which was why don’t we just get it over with already?

“We didn’t interview for an interim, we interviewed for a superintendent, an educational leader for this system,” Edwards said.

I couldn’t agree with him more.

Now, more than ever, Dallas County Schools needs a strong leader. They need someone who will go above and beyond to not only remove schools from the failing list, but attract students to the school system.

While I believe Willingham is fully capable of serving the system as interim superintendent, the community deserves a clear leader with an official title. Hopefully, the board will make a decision sooner rather than later.