The Lowndes County School District board laid out their list of criteria for qualified superintendent candidates during a special-call meeting Monday night.
The 14-point list outlines a combination of education, experience, residency and skill criteria that will be taken into account when the Mississippi School Board Association — with which LCSD has contracted to assist with the superintendent search — evaluates candidates, said LCSD Board Attorney Jeff Smith.
At the top of the list are the three most important criteria: candidates must hold a valid Mississippi administrator license or be able to obtain one; hold at least a master’s degree in school administration or school leadership; and must meet the statewide legal requirements.
By law, qualified superintendent applicants must have served as a principal at an A- or B-rated school (according to state accountability ratings) for three years or at a school that has risen a letter grade and maintained it for three years; served as a superintendent or assistant superintendent; or held a position of leadership for six years. The board determines which position of leadership qualifies a candidate. Those positions can range from lawyers to military personnel.
Under the $4,700 contract with MSBA, the association will advertise the position and review the initial batch of candidates before passing the finalists to the LCSD board for them to interview.
“Basically, (MSBA) will do the advertising and find the best candidates out of everyone who applies,” Smith said. “(LCSD) will do the rest. … That’s why we’re starting so early, is so (MSBA) would have time to re-advertise if the candidates they get the first time aren’t any good, or the board interviews finalists and none of them work out. But since we have (MSBA) doing our advertising instead of just advertising locally, this way it’ll be really wide spread.”
LCSD board members also voted to set the superintendent’s salary to be “commensurate with experience,” but did not set a specific range.
Sitting Superintendent Lynn Wright — who will complete his second elected four-year term on Dec. 31, after which state law requires all county superintendent positions to become board-appointed — makes more than $127,500 annually, according to Smith.
Wright, who meets the minimum requirements and intends to apply to keep his position, told The Dispatch he believes his time leading the district has built a strong enough resume to keep his job.
On the academic front, LCSD has an overall accountability rating — determined primarily by students performance on end-of-year state benchmark exams — of B, falling just a few points shy of an A.
Financially, however, the district’s fund balance has plummeted since 2014 from about $17 million to an expected $4 million by June 30. Wright has consistently pointed to $75 million in building projects ($44 million of which were built with a 2015 voter-approved bond issue) the district has completed and has blamed property tax collections for falling short of projections in recent years.
“I happen to love my job and I love the people I work with,” Wright said. “With the team we have in place and the hard work and effort from our teachers and students, we have only continued to show improvement.”
If Wright is not hired, the board must then decide whether to install the new superintendent in January — the middle of the 2019-20 school year — or offer Wright a six-month contract to fill out the school term and bring in the new person when the next school year begins in July 2020.
LCSD Board President Robert Barksdale declined to comment when contacted by The Dispatch. Board member Brian Clark told The Dispatch his priority in the superintendent search is selecting the candidate that is “best qualified to lead the district,” and that he will judge who is qualified by whether they meet LCSD’s criteria.
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