Dallas BOE interviews seven finalists for top job

Published 10:46 pm Tuesday, February 23, 2016

By Chelsea Vance | The Selma Times-Journal

The Dallas County Board of Education interviewed seven finalists Tuesday for its next superintendent.

Hattie Shelton, Clarence Jackson, Vivian Relf, Isaac Haynes, Walter Fenn, Sherene Carpenter and Corey Jones were all questioned about their plans for the school system if given the top job.


Hattie Shelton said her work over the years within the Dallas County School System has caused her to see many problems firsthand. She said she cares a great deal about the children of the system and plans to do her best to make the system as successful as possible if she is chosen superintendent.

“I have love and passion for children of Dallas County. I want the best for them like I want for my own,” Shelton said. She was asked a series of questions concerning raises for employees, school programs and policies and the possibility of raising property taxes so students in the system can have more equipment and learning tools.

“I already feel that in our district we don’t pay enough property tax. I know what my sisters and brothers pay in Birmingham and what my friends pay in Atlanta. So, I understand why they have more resources than we do,” Shelton said. “I don’t have a problem with being the face that presents that.”

Shelton received a master’s of arts degree in special education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1990. She also graduated from the University of West Alabama in 1997, where she majored in educational leadership. In 1982, she obtained a bachelor’s of science degree in mathematics from UAB.

Her experience in education includes serving as principal of Tipton-Durant Middle School and Bruce K. Craig Elementary School before becoming a supervisor with the Dallas County School Board in July 2012. She currently serves as assistant superintendent for the Dallas County School System and has held the position since 2013.


Clarence Jackson has worked 25 years as an administrator in education. He currently serves as the principal at Southside High School and said he wants to improve old programs and initiate new ones for the school system.

“Parents like good programs and they care about different initiatives. You want to keep good programs. Jackson said. “Those that aren’t successful, we can replace them with something else.”

He plans to incorporate a team attitude throughout the system.

“Being an administrator, I know how many times I have been in the dark about things. I would get individuals that have knowledge of whatever it was we were dealing with to help me. Some people will have expertise in areas where I am weak,” Jackson said.

Jackson graduated from Alabama A&M University in 1979 with a bachelor’s of science degree in health, physical education and recreation. He later received a master’s of arts degree in education and a master’s degree in health education and certification in educational administration from UAB in 1987. He served as a principal in the Demopolis City School System from 1991-2010 before accepting his current job as the principal of Southside High School.


Vivian Relf, like many of the other applicants, has an extensive background in education.

Community support is something she said she would work on organizing if she was chosen as superintendent. She said she believes it is important to make sure the community is informed through forums but realizes support could sometimes be a distraction.

“I think there needs to be order. Although we welcome it, it doesn’t need to be an interruption of the learning environment. Principals need to set standards to make sure we don’t have people from the community coming out in and out of the schools at will,” Relf said.

She received a bachelor’s of science degree in special education from Alabama A&M in 1980. She also obtained a master’s degree in elementary education from Western Kentucky University, an educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Troy University and a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Relf has taught mostly special education and first grade. She has been an assistant principal for the Russell County School Board of Education and now serves as the director of special education services for the Russell County School Board and Jacksonville State University.


Isaac Haynes said a successful system that progresses is dependent on trust and communication.

“People have to trust the school superintendent. I will engage the community. I will not wait to for the community to come talk to me, I will be at the bus stops in the morning, places of worship and etcetera to build a reservoir of trust,” Haynes said.

He graduated from Alcorn State University with a bachelor’s of science degree in 1989 and went on to receive a master’s of science degree in education administration and supervision from Jackson State University.

“We need to move the bar academically to have the school system meet the needs of all students. We need to get to where our budget is not inconsistent and work on facilities so they are more competitive,” Haynes said.

He also wants to improve literacy through the school system and focus on training teachers so they can help students comprehend better in classes if he is chosen as superintendent.


Walter Fenn said he believes he is a good match for the system because of the genuine love he has for students.

“I love working with students and making a difference in their lives. I love working with educators because there is no greater factor that makes a difference in the lives of students in education that the quality of the teachers,” Fenn said.

He graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s of science degree in accounting in 1989. He obtained a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1995. Fenn added a masters degree in educational administration in 1997 and a doctorate in education leadership from Lamar University in 2011.

He has served as the superintendent of schools in the Texas School Districts from 2001-2011. From 2011-2015, he was an assistant principal in the instructional leadership program at the University of Montevallo.


Sherene Carpenter has a vision she plans to bring to fruition through instruction of professional development and leadership.

“It is extremely important to look at data. It drives everything from our instructional philosophy to looking at how we teach,” Carpenter said. “We need to have our kids to have a learning style inventory test because we must teach in the best way in which they learn.”

She received a bachelor’s of science degree in secondary language art education at Alabama State University. She later added a master’s of education degree from Montevallo, education specialist and doctor of philosophy in education leadership degrees from UAB and attended the superintendents` academy at the University of Alabama. She has served as a coordinator of attendance for Birmingham City Schools since 2013.

Carpenter congratulated the board on the high graduation rates and the removal of three schools from the failing schools list. She said she wants to continue to use data and research for advancement of the system if she is chosen as the new superintendent.


Corey Jones said he would strive to make children in the Dallas County School System successful and make sure to keep open communication with the board in all decisions if he is chosen for superintendent.

“For any district to be successful, you have to have a collaborative relationship between the board and superintendent. In my opinion, the superintendent should solicit the advice of the board in every major decision,” Jones said.

He received a bachelor’s of science degree from Troy University in biology in 1992. He added a master’s of science degree in biology education in 1994 from Troy. In 2012, he received a doctorate of education from Alabama State University.

He has served as the education administrator for the Perry County Board of Education since 2003. He was also a teacher at Francis Marion High School from 1994-2003.


President of the Dallas County School Board Carolyn Bates said now that all finalists have been interviewed, it is time for the board to take the next step.

“The next thing we would do is hold an executive session with the board members so we can discuss the interview outcomes and the credentials of candidates we favor the most,” Bates said. “We have an excellent group of candidates to choose from. It’s going to be a tough decision for us.”

The executive session will be held on Friday where the board will deliberate on who the next superintendent will be. They will share their decision at the next board meeting on March 1.