Some BOE members weren’t ready in vote

Published 7:43 pm Friday, June 11, 2010

As the Troy City Board of Education made the decision Thursday to hire three new principals for each of its schools, it did so in unusual fashion — divisively.

But, the two members who voted against each of the hiring decisions, Wally Lowery and Judson Edwards, said their votes weren’t driven by disapproval of the candidates but instead the hiring process.

“I do not believe a 30-minute work session called on the day of the meeting is enough time to make an educated decision on these critical hires for the school system,” said Edwards, school board vice president, referring to the amount of time the board members met prior to the meeting to discuss the recommendations for the jobs.

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Those hired as principals were Kathy Murphy, Charles Henderson High School; Bradley Bouldin, Charles Henderson Middle School; and Juan Henderson, Troy Elementary School. The hiring was done with the recommendation of Superintendent Linda Felton-Smith and the support of three board members in a 3-2 vote. Board president Roxie Kitchens and members John Parker and Dorothea Thomas voted to support the superintendent’s hiring recommendation.

Edwards and Lowery said they did not see resumes or any information on the recommended hires and because of that felt they couldn’t make an educated vote.

“I could not in good conscious vote for any of these applicants,” Edwards said. “My job is not to support recommendations from Dr. Felton on blind faith, especially on such an important action. To uphold my duties as a competent board member, I needed time to review their credentials in order to develop meaningful questions for the superintendent to answer on the candidate.

“I realize that time was of the essence in hiring these principals, but I was not prepared. This was a rare opportunity to make a sweeping change in the system. I truly hope they all prove to be quality principals.”

Lowery agreed with Edwards on why he voted each of the decisions down.

“While these jobs were being advertised, I received a lot of input from people in the community about the type of leadership we need in our schools. I knew that hiring good principals was vital for the future of our system,” Lowery said.

“I did not receive a copy of a single resume on any of these candidates before being asked to cast a vote. I thought it was best not to approve the hiring of these principals when I could not tell you anything about their track record. It all seemed rushed to me.”

Felton-Smith said she had no response to Edwards’ and Lowery’s decisions to vote against her recommendations due to what they called a lack of information.

“Each individual board member has the right to vote how they want to when a recommendation is made, and they chose to oppose the recommendation, and that’s all the information I have,” Felton-Smith said.

Kitchens said she did not receive any more documentation on the decision than those who opposed it.

“I had not seen anything they had not seen, but I have confidence in Dr. Felton, Mr. (Chreseal) Threadgill and Mr. (David) Helms,” Kitchens said. “It is not a board member’s responsibility to go through applications for principal jobs, and that’s why we have administrators.”

Threadgill, former CHMS principal, and Helms, former CHHS principal, were said to be involved in the hiring process.

Kitchens, who has served on the school board approximately seven years, said while its members typically vote in agreement, she understands there are times they won’t all agree.

“(Thursday) night was unusual for the Troy City Board, but when you look at boards around the area, votes like we saw last night were not unusual,” Kitchens said.

“Each board member makes up his own mind about what he thinks is the right way to vote based on his conviction, and that’s what happened last night.”

Felton-Smith said she could not say exactly how many applicants there were for the positions, but she said each job drew a high level of interest.

Those applicants who did not have at least five years of administrative experience were not considered, and Felton-Smith said she, along with Helms and Threadgill worked together in making hiring decisions.

“We as the administrators go through the process of reviewing the applications,” she said.

That process includes checking references, interviewing and ultimately narrowing down the decisions. Felton-Smith said the jobs were posted for 14 days prior to Monday, which was the last day for public listing. She also said the administrators began the review process as applications were submitted and didn’t have to wait until the final day to start their review.

Kitchens said the position for the middle school job was posted before the other two, since administrators knew Threadgill was moving to the central office earlier than Helms made his more or TES Principal Geoffrey Spann announced his retirement. She said it was important the board make hiring decisions before July 1, and in order to have the three employees here by that time its members needed to vote Thursday.

“We wanted these principals in place by July 1. In order to do so, we have to give them time to turn in notices. And, Dr. Felton-Smith will be at conferences next week and the board will be a conference, as well. There is no way we could have postponed this,” she said.

The principals, with the exception of Juan Henderson, are not Pike County natives.

Murphy, who comes from the Greenville School system, was actually hired by the Butler County Board of Education to serve as the middle school principal in Greenville the same night she was approved as CHHS principal.

Murphy said Friday she is accepting the job at CHHS.

“I was aware our superintendent was making decisions in our school system, shuffling people around,” Murphy said.

“You don’t always know what decisions are out there on the agenda. But my focus last night was not about Butler County. It was Troy…It’s nice to have two jobs, but at the end of the day, my commitment was to Troy.”

Murphy currently serves as the assistant superintendent in Butler County Schools, and prior to that she has been the principal of Greenville High and Middle Schools and has taught at the college level.

CHMS Principal Bradley Bouldin currently works as curriculum and assessment specialist for STI Achievement Services, but Felton-Smith said he has worked prior as a middle school and high school principal and in an alternative school setting. He comes with 19 years of education experience and more than 10 years in administration.

TES Principal Juan Henderson worked for seven years previously as an administrator at the Troy Elementary, but he then moved to Nevada where he was an educational leader at the elementary level and was a head principal at the first charter school in North Las Vegas.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said he was “disturbed” by the school board’s split vote Thursday.

“My concern is the appearance to the public there was pre-selection and some knew what the vote was going to be before they ever had a meeting,” he said.