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Lincoln County School Board’s superintendent search begins

Members of the Lincoln County School Board of Trustees will meet with an education expert Tuesday to discuss the criteria for choosing the next district superintendent.

Mississippi School Boards Association Executive Director Michael Waldrop plans to talk to board members during the special called meeting, which will be held at the district office on East Monticello Street beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Waldrop will detail the process for a superintendent search and the services provided by the MSBA.

In 2016, Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a bill that changed all public school district superintendents to appointees. At the time, 55 of the state’s 144 school districts elected their superintendents. The new law requires school boards to appoint superintendents after their current terms end.

Before the law, with elected superintendents, only local residents who were both qualified and up for running for the position could be an option for the job. Appointing a superintendent gives boards more options to find the best candidate.

Waldrop told the board a year ago that time would be a critical factor in their selection of an appointed superintendent to take office on Jan. 1, 2020, because candidates who meet qualifications under the 2016 law will go fast. He urged the board to tackle the matter sooner rather than later during his presentation, in which he briefed members on new superintendent qualification requirements.

However, four of the five members of this board were elected in November — President Billy Vaughn, Vice President Brian Magee, Secretary Justin Laird and Timothy Cunningham. They join Diane Gill, the lone member who was there last year to hear Waldrop’s suggestions.

The 2016 law changing all superintendents to appointed positions also mandates certain qualifications new superintendents must meet. It requires at least six years of classroom or administrative experience, including three years at a school with an A or B accountability rating or a school that increased its rating by a letter grade in Mississippi or another state with comparable accountability standards. The school has to have maintained the rating during the superintendent candidate’s employment there.

Those requirements are waived for veteran superintendents or assistant superintendents who have served before July 1, 2017.

Lincoln County Superintendent Mickey Myers, a Democrat, defeated Republican candidate Jason Case in 2015 with 53 percent of the vote, or 2,851 to 2,529. Myers meets all the qualifications and has long experience teaching and administering in Bogue Chitto.

In March last year, Waldrop recommended the board first begin discussions with Myers to see if he is interested in the position. Myers, who draws a salary of $110,000 annually, said Thursday he will make his decision known during the meeting Tuesday.

With the new law in place, school boards will now be able to hire and fire superintendents

“Once you appoint a superintendent, the relationship is going to change,” Waldrop said in March 2018. “If you have an underperforming school district, there’s a clear line of accountability back to the board.”

Boards will likely also compete for the most qualified candidates, much like they do for football coaches.

“Superintendent poaching is absolutely going to happen,” board attorney Jim Keith said last year. “People are going to be competing for qualified candidates. Madison is open now — what would keep Madison from going to, say, Rankin and making their superintendent an offer?”