Board votes to hire Hicks as superintendent

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Troy City Schools Board of Education voted 3-2 on Wednesday to begin superintendent contract negotiations with Prattville Principal Lee Hicks.

Board members spent 45 minutes in an executive session during the called meeting to discuss the good name and character of Hicks and the other four candidates before taking the vote.

Board members voted by a show of hands on Wally Lowery’s motion to offer a contract to Hicks. Lowery, Dr. Judson Edwards and Eva Green voted in favor of the motion. Al Jones and board president Roxie Kitchens voted against it.

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The vote brought to a close what Edwards described as a stressful year for the board members, who have worked to bring about changes in the leadership of the district.

“There’s been a lot of emotion in this for us, a lot of stress,” he said. “But there’s nobody in this building who doesn’t want anything but the best for this system.”

Kitchens echoed the commitment of the board members to support Hicks. “I may have voted no, but I can assure you if Mr. Hicks is our next superintendent he will have my support and help,” Kitchens told the board and audience.

Hicks said Wednesday night he was “very, very excited” about the opportunity to come to Troy. “I know there were a lot of quality candidates, but I feel like I’m ready for the job … I’m looking forward to getting there and hitting the ground running.”

Hicks was one of five finalists to interview for the job. Others included Dr. Alan Miller, director of special education for Eufaula City Schools; Dr. Boyd English, principal in Twin Cities, Ga.; Dr. Mike Hall, principal at Pike County High School; and Alexis Seymore, superintendent of the Dawson Springs (Ky.) Schools.

Prior to voting to go into executive session, each of the board members offered a public statement about the qualities they were seeking in a superintendent candidate. Edwards’ voice broke several times as he read his, pausing to hold back tears as he talked about the sense of complacency and defeat he sensed surrounding the school district.

“This system requires a change agent, someone who can lift us from the feeling of defeat and demand that we reach levels of greatness both within the system and the community,” he said.

Elaborating on the challenges facing the district, Edwards said: “The city, board, teachers and staff have just gone through a tumultuous year of uncertainty and difficulty in the name of change … Accordingly, I will close with a quote for everyone here that I hope will guide us as we go forward:

‘Nations decay and degenerate from continuous prosperity. The best lessons given to us after these days of adversity is that greatness rises from defeat.’

“That powerful quote is from Charles Henderson in his first address to the legislature as governor of this great state. What would Charles Henderson say to us tonight if we were here? How would he feel about what he left to us by looking at our system today? Would he be proud?”

During her comments, Kitchens referenced the film “Waiting for Superman.”

“I haven’t seen the movie, but the title reminds me of what we’re trying to do,” she said. “… But Superman is a comic book character. And the person we will hire will not be perfect.”

And Jones also acknowledged the fact that he did not expect the vote to be unanimous. “But I do respect everybody’s decision.”

In his comments, Jones said he was seeking a CEO for the district who could portray himself or herself as a leader “in your speech, in how you carry yourself, in your knowledge of your system.” Jones said communication skills and the ability to answer questions directly were key concerns. “If you can’t communicate with 30 people in a room, how can I expect you to go out and represent TCS?”

For Green, hiring an “educational visionary” with good communication skills were top priorities. “We need someone who is a good listener, a critical thinker and who can make a decision and stick with it.”

And Lowery, who made the motion to hire Hicks, said in his comments that he was seeking four “dynamic components” in the next superintendent: the ability to lead; enthusiasm; attitude; and direction. “For the first time in the history of Troy, we are now standing at the crossroads where our school system and community face the crossroads for education.”

After the meeting, Edwards also addressed concerns that the board members never asked Hicks about the ongoing Alabama High School Athletic Association investigation into Prattville High School regarding student eligibility and grades.

“Should it have been asked? Probably so,” Edwards said. “But the way the interviews were structured, with everyone having the same 14 questions … we didn’t ask it.”

However, Edwards said “a lot of reference checking went on by the board members and I can tell you that we felt confident in making this offer … I personally am of the opinion that a person is innocent until proven guilty.”

Still, the board will make accommodations in the contract to protect the Troy City Schools should Hicks be indicated or charged with any offenses as part of the investigation. “Absolutely we will,” Edwards said.

Board attorney Dickie Calhoun will conduct the contract negotiations on behalf the board.

The board rescheduled its next meeting from Monday, June 27, to 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 30, in hopes of having completed negotiations by that date.

“It’s a new process, but I see no reason we couldn’t get things wrapped up by that date. I know there’s a lot to be done,” Hicks said