Leader Blues

Sunday, February 21, 2010

TOP STORY >> PCSSD superintendent to be chosen in March

Leader staff writer

Interviews with the two finalists for Pulaski County Special School District superintendent are planned around the first of March, with a decision to come soon after.

The interviews will be closed to the public.

But a forum for school patrons to talk with the candidates will take place around the same time, said board president Tim Clark.

“We hope to have this finalized in the next 10 days,” Clark said.

The school board at a special meeting Thursday selected the finalists for the district’s top post. Acting superintendent Rob McGill and Vashti Washington, associate superintendent for Charleston, S.C., public schools, had emerged as the clear favorites during a discussion of candidates the day before, board members said.

“I am excited to be a finalist for this position,” said McGill in a prepared statement. “As the acting superintendent since last March, I have spearheaded many programs, projects and plans that I want to see to fruition for the betterment of PCSSD students and their families.”

Board member Bill Vasquez of Jacksonville said that any of the four candidates considered for the post “would be great for the district,” but that a strong leader is what is needed most.

“I want someone who is a team builder, a good communicator and someone who can involve all the stakeholders, but be the ultimate authority,” Vasquez said. “The board tends to be the final decider, and that is not the design. The superintendent runs the district, the board has oversight. Our board is much too active.”

Clark said in the next round of interviews he’ll probably ask questions “outside of the box, more in depth” on an array of topics that might include the upcoming federal court desegregation case or the candidate’s stance on school discipline.

“Whoever gets it, I am going to be happy with it,” Clark said. “Both have good experience and a good educational background.”

The board will not make a decision for the superintendent’s job until after the conclusion of an investigation of allegations that McGill made racially insensitive comments on more than one occasion. Attorney Jack Lassiter is expected to complete his investigation in a few days, said board member Charles Wood on Wednesday.

Dale Charles, president of the Arkansas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, presented a letter to the board at its regular meeting Wednesday that alleged McGill had commented, regarding the state Board of Education’s granting of a charter to an all-black school, “They gave the blacks something, and didn’t give the whites nothing.”

In his letter, Charles said that McGill “lacked the necessary skills” to lead the district and end its long-running desegregation case.

A hearing on the PCSSD’s adherence to its desegregation plan is scheduled to start in federal court Feb. 25.

Rizzelle Aaron, representative of the Jacksonville chapter of the NAACP, said at the board meeting Wednesday that he would not air “other complaints” against McGill until after the board’s pick of a superintendent in order to counter rumors that the timing of the allegations was “politically motivated.”

At the meeting, Marty Nix, president of the Pulaski Association of Classroom Teachers, and Emery Chesterfield, president of the Pulaski Association of Support Staff, chided the school board for not including them in discussions about candidates for the superintendent position. Inclusion of union representatives has been past practice, Nix said.

“PACT represents the majority of teachers in the district, and we are still under contract,” Nix said.

Before taking on the job of acting superintendent a year ago, McGill was principal at Sherwood Elementary School for six years and at Pine Forest Elementary School for four years. Prior to that, he was assistant principal at Landmark Elementary School for two years.

He has four years experience teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade in PCSSD. McGill has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in elementary school administration. McGill lives in Mayflower.

The district is the second largest in the state, with 17,330 students.

Washington, the other candidate, lives in Summerville, S.C., where she is in her sixth year as associate superintendent for the Charleston County Schools, which has 43,000 students.

She has 10 years’ experience as a school principal and 15 years’ teaching experience on the elementary and middle school levels in South Carolina schools.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in speech and communication, a master’s degree in early childhood education and a doctoral degree in school leadership and administration.