By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – In a decision designed to curtail politics and provide a quality applicant pool, the Water Valley School board hired an outside association to assist in the hiring process to replace retiring superintendent Sammy Higdon.
Higdon, who has served in the school district for 25 years, both as principal and superintendent, announced his retirement earlier this spring, allowing ample time for his replacement to be selected. Higdon’s contract expires next June.
Board members voted unanimously Monday night to contract with the Mississippi School Board Association (MSBA) to head the superintendent’s search at a cost of $9,500, plus expenses.
Making the pitch for MSBA at Monday night’s meeting was Dr. E. Harold Fisher, former president of the National School Boards Association and the Mississippi School Boards Association.
Dr. Fisher, who is employed by MSBA, outlined each step in the service, which includes learning the district’s needs, publicizing the vacancy, qualifying the candidates and presenting the final list of qualified candidates to the school board. He also emphasized that the service would not make a recommendation on which applicant to hire.
“This helps elevate the search above politics,” Dr. Fisher added. “All board members have somebody in this community that thinks so-and-so should get it. They want to pressure you to get that person,” Dr. Fisher explained.
“I can tell you the pool is rather shallow. There are not a lot of outstanding candidates out there,” Dr. Fisher continued.
While a formal timeline was not set during Monday’s meeting, Dr. Fisher immediately went to work following the board’s vote, handing out a survey to be completed individually by each school board member.
Another option offered to the school district was to allow community input in determining the criteria for search guidelines for the new superintendent. Dr. Fisher explained that his organization offered organize a “stake holders meeting” in the community if school board members so desired.
Other business conducted at the meeting included:
• Approved the claims docket.
• Accepted a donation for Davidson Elementary challenge classes.
• Tabled a request from the the Beta Club to travel to St. Louis on a field trip.
• Entered executive session to discuss personnel recommendations including hiring Elizabeth Sutherland as a fourth grade teacher and Linda Jones Claus and Brittany Foxx as substitute teachers. Also slated to be discussed in the executive session was the resignation of fourth grade teacher Kristen McCaslin.
• Amended the district’s wellness policy based on a revision handed down by the state.