Leader Blues

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

TOP STORY >> PCSSD finalists excited

By RICKY HARVEY
Leader managing editor

The five finalists vying for the superintendent position with the Pulaski County Special School District better get plenty of rest before their day in the spotlight next week.
They’ll likely need it.

A 13-hour day of non-stop meeting and greeting is scheduled each day next week for the candidates for the position, which was trimmed from eight applicants to five finalists during a special meeting Monday night with the school board and consultants from Mc-Pherson and Jacobson Executive Recruitment and Development, the firm organizing the nationwide search. Those approved by the school board to go through the interview process are:

• Dr. Carl Davis, 52, of Powder Springs, Ga., deputy chief of human resources at Cobb County (Ga.) Schools, a district of 106,000 students in Atlanta.
• Dr. Bruce Harter, 58, of Wilmington Del., superintendent of the 10,700-student Brandywine School District in Claymont, Del.
• Dr. Aquine Jackson, 59, of Milwaukee, chief academic officer of the 100,000-student Milwaukee Public Schools.
• Dr. Ed Musgrove, 54, of Waynesville, Mo., superintendent of Waynesville R-VI School District, with an enrollment of 5,200.
• James Sharpe, 64, of Little Rock, current interim superintendent with the PCSSD.

The five finalists were recommended by the search firm from a list of eight candidates who completed the application process.
“I’m really pleased with the fact we have five high-quality finalists,” consultant Thomas Jacob-son said. “When the numbers were coming in, we were get ting nervous because we didn’t have the numbers we had hoped for.

“But once we started screening, we realized that this is a very strong slate of candidates and that is unusual.”
Each finalist will visit the district during a different day next week, where they will meet with members of the district’s communities, tour schools and facilities, meet with the media and close the day by interviewing with the school board.

The day will start at 8 a.m. and conclude with the formal interview with the board, scheduled for 7:30-9 p.m. each day.
“I’m looking forward to meeting them, talking to them and finding out their vision,” said Rev. James Bolden III, a board member from Jackson-ville.

“I’m looking forward to bringing up Jack-sonville.”

Jackson will start the interview process on Monday, Sharpe on Tuesday, Davis on Wednesday, Jan. 25, Harter on Thursday, Jan. 26 and Musgrove on Friday, Jan. 27.

“I want to know what the concerns are from the board members, from members of the communities, and I’d like to talk to students and see what their concerns are and see what things they’d like to see in place,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward for the board to get to know me to see if there is a match.”

Davis, who was superintendent for four years at Natchez (Miss.) Public Schools, said he’s also looking forward to meeting with members of the community and finding out all he needs to know about the district.

“I’m going there to listen,” Davis said. “I want to get the community to share with me the good and the bad and the things that need to be worked on. I want to know the community’s vision of the district.”

Musgrove will be the final candidate on Jan. 27, wrapping up a long interview process.

“I’m happy to be given the opportunity to explain my qualifications and experiences and hopefully they’ll be a desired fit for what the needs of the district are,” Musgrove said.

The finalists were recommended after an extensive screening process conducted by Jacobson and Loe Dunn, another consultant, using criteria developed after numerous focus-session groups with board members, teachers, students and members of the district’s communities were conducted in October and Novem-ber.
The top criteria determined by the board in-cluded:

• Someone of integrity and high ethical standards who possesses strong moral values.
• A seasoned administrator with a proven track record of fiscally and organizationally managing a multi-facility school district.
• Someone who possesses strong managerial leadership abilities with the ability to motivate, encourage and honestly evaluate staff and administrators.
• Someone who possesses outstanding communication and public relation skills with the ability to relate to a racially-diverse population.
• Someone who has experience as a superintendent and district administrator.
• Someone who has experience working with districts that have experienced financial and academic difficulties.
Whoever the board chooses as its next leader, they will receive a base salary of $165,000-$175,000, an amount approved by the Arkansas Department of Education.

The new superintendent will be someone the board hopes will provide stability in the district. The board has bought out the contracts of the past two superintendents — Gary Smith and Don Henderson — and has had four leaders since longtime chief Bobby Lester retired in 1999.