By Jonathan Austin
Yancey County News
The Chairman of the Yancey County School Board says the search for a new school leader must be wide ranging, which is why the job posting doesn’t require applicants to either hold a postgraduate degree or to have attempted postgraduate studies.
“We want to open this application process up for every single person who might be willing to apply, in order to find the very, very, very best person,” said Chair Rhonda Boone. If the initial application process allowed only applicants with a masters or doctorate, “we might eliminate the very best person,” she said.
According to information posted on the county schools website, prospective superintendents “must currently hold or be eligible for a valid North Carolina Superintendent’s Certificate or you must have at least a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university and possess five years of leadership or managerial experience deemed relevant by the Board of Education.”
The posting seemingly invites anyone with a college degree to apply, knowing that they will get past a hurdle often used to winnow out those who didn’t spend years in postgraduate work.
The Yancey County job posting differs from every other job posting for a county school superintendent in North Carolina that was listed open last week.
A posting for a superintendent in Avery County, which has an enrollment of 2,128, specified: “Candidates must have or be qualified to hold a North Carolina superintendent license. Prior senior-level education administrative experience and a doctorate degree is preferred, but not required. The board will give preference to candidates with experience in teaching and school administration, experience working with multiple levels of education, maintaining high student academic performance, curriculum development, closing the achievement gap, increasing graduate rates, instructional technology and knowledge of the Appalachian culture.”
Likewise, Jackson County was seeking a superintendent for its 3,500-enrollment system. It specified: “Prior experience or a doctoral degree is preferred but not required. ...Candidates should demonstrate a strong ability in: (1) instructional and administrative leadership; (2) partnering with community members, school personnel and government officials; (3) public relations; (4) administration and organization; (5) long and short-term planning; (6) budgeting; (7) personnel management and staff development; (8) facility management; and (9) community involvement.”
Harnett and Currituck counties sought a superintendent of similar experience for enrollment of about 3,000 and 4,035 respectively: “A doctorate degree or progress toward a doctorate degree is preferred but not required. Superintendent or assistant superintendent experience is also preferred.”
Vance County, with an enrollment of 7,300, listed almost identical requirements.
Boone said finding a candidate with a doctorate would be good, but added: “There’s so many things that might qualify someone to be superintendent. I want us as a board to … find the very best possible for Yancey County. You don’t want to close a door before you peek in and see what’s there.”
Board Vice Chair Sheila Ramsey agreed, but seemed to say the low threshold is just a starting point. Someone with only a bachelor’s degree “is not necessarily what we are looking for.”
She and Boone both said the board consulted Asheville attorney Chris Campbell “to guide us through this.”
Ramsey said the job posting “follows a guideline set by the state,” adding that a bachelor’s degree “is all the state requires.”
“I am looking for the best person we can find. It is for the children we serve. I was a principal and teacher for 32 years; I taught kindergarten through eighth grade. I’ve worked for superintendents, and I feel I know what we need in a superintendent.
“Our goal is to find the person who has the most experience. I want us to be fair and to be honest,” Ramsey said.
But she said: “Because a person has a doctorate does not mean we must hire them. Because they only have (less formal education) doesn’t mean we must ignore them.”
Board member Jack Tipton said the wording of the job posting drew his attention.
“I wondered about that, too.”
He seemed to stake a position, saying that he “ would not participate in hiring somebody who only had a bachelor’s degree.”
“I can’t see us hiring anybody who’s not qualified,” Tipton said. “I hope we can hire somebody local, and everybody I know that is local - who might be interested - has their advanced degrees.”