School board members seek superintendent who can build partnerships
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Now that Dr. Judy Grissom is retiring, school board members say they want a new superintendent who will build on her work — and who won’t stop there.
“I think we had a superintendent who took us to great heights, and now it’s time for someone else to come in and push forward,” said Kay Wright Norman, vice chair of the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education. “We can’t clone Judy, so we’re not looking for Judy.”
Grissom plans to retire as superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System on Sept. 30. She has led the school system since 2005.
Board member L.A. Overcash said he would keep her if he could, and he’ll be looking for someone with the same kind of vision.
“I think our school system’s moving in the right direction, and I’d like to see it continue in that direction,” Overcash said. “But we’re always open to fresh ideas. If somebody’s got a better way of doing something, I’m open to it.”
He said the school system needs someone with experience in a school system and with handling a similar-sized budget.
Josh Wagner also said it’s important to find someone who “works as hard as they can to try to educate within the financial constraints.”
Board Chairman Richard Miller said he wants to hire someone who not only understands budgeting but also can lead on the instructional side.
“I think that I am looking for a candidate that will continue the excellent leadership that we’ve had out of Dr. Grissom and that will continue the emphasis on cutting the dropout rate, improving graduation rates, increasing funding and making sure that every child is in the appropriate educational setting to maximize their potential,” Miller said.
He said he wants to find someone who has experience as a superintendent, who has worked in bigger school systems like Rowan-Salisbury and who is “very adept at building community partnerships and relations.”
Partnership was a common theme raised by nearly all of the board members.
Wagner said he wants to hire someone who will be involved in the community and work well with the school board, Salisbury City Council and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
Miller and Susan Cox also said they’re hoping to find a good team-builder.
“I would hope they would bring a lot of experience to table, but be open to new ideas and new methodology and have fresh ideas, too,” Cox said.
Norman said the next superintendent should be able to lead community discussions and continue to develop partnerships.
“It has to be a person who is passionate about public education,” Norman said. “That’s where their heart and soul is, and they are willing to do whatever becomes necessary to move our system from where it is to where it should be.”
Norman said she also hopes to hire a person who embraces technology and understands its importance in the schools.
Cox and Jean Kennedy said they’re looking for a superintendent with a strong background in both administration (as a principal) and the classroom (as a teacher).
“We have made tremendous movement forward in addressing the needs of our students under the leadership of Dr. Grissom,” Kennedy said. “I’m looking for someone who will extend that movement for us.”
Chuck Hughes said he hopes to find someone with administrative experience who is familiar with Rowan County - even if the person doesn’t live here - and the inner workings of a school system.
The Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education began its search for a new superintendent earlier this month. The North Carolina School Boards Association is advertising the position and will collect applications.
The school board then will review them, narrow them down and begin the interview process. The school board tentatively plans to announce its choice for superintendent on Aug. 26.
The school system is asking staff and community members to fill out anonymous surveys by May 21 to share what they would like to see in the next superintendent.
For the online version of the community survey, visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/BR3FBQV.
For a downloadable PDF (a hard copy), visit www.rss.k12.nc.us.
Hard copies will also be available at the Rowan-Salisbury School System Administrative Offices, community centers, libraries and as advertised through the local news media outlets.
“I hope people will take the time to fill them out,” Hughes said. “This is Rowan County’s school system, and they should have input on who runs it.”
Hughes, Miller and Wagner said they hope to hold a public forum where the community can offer even more input. Overcash and Kennedy said they’re open to the idea.
“Parents, teachers and staff could come ask questions of the school board, share questions they want us to ask the candidates and what type of person they think the superintendent should be,” Wagner said.
Norman said the surveys should reach a wider audience, but if the school board doesn’t get enough of a response, it can look for other ways to get public input like holding a forum.
The board used a more informal process when it hired Grissom, Norman said, because members already knew her and knew she was well-qualified for the job. This time, it is following many of the same steps the board used to hire the previous superintendent, Dr. Wiley Doby.
Board members said they’re not sure whether they will publicize the final candidates before making their decision, but right now they don’t have plans to do so. They stressed the issue of confidentiality.
Kennedy said any member of the public is welcome to express his or her thoughts for three minutes during the public comment period at school board meetings.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.