Senate chooses not to confirm new Mississippi State Superintendent of Education

Published 6:01 pm Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Mississippi Senate has chosen not to confirm Dr. Robert Taylor as state superintendent of education and has questioned the process the Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) used to select a candidate. Senate confirmation is required to complete the appointment process of the state superintendent of education.

“The State Board of Education conducted a fair, competitive and rigorous application process to select the most qualified candidate to fulfill the duties of state superintendent of education,” said Rosemary Aultman, SBE chair. “The search firm we hired was helpful in giving the board direction, and we are confident we selected the best candidate.”

The SBE conducted a six-month, national search before voting unanimously on Nov. 21, 2022, to hire Dr. Taylor to serve as the state’s top public education official. Dr. Taylor was selected through a competitive process from among 26 applicants from 15 states.

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State law gives the SBE the authority to hire the state superintendent of education. The SBE adhered to the state’s competitive procurement process to contract with the firm McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, to lead the search process. The SBE followed standard interview and evaluation procedures including reviewing resumes and applications, conducting background checks and formulating questions for multiple interviews, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

The search firm assisted in identifying the seven semifinalists who submitted video recordings with responses to the SBE’s questions. Board members ranked the seven semifinalists to select four finalists for in-person interviews. The SBE conducted interviews with finalists over three days before selecting Dr. Taylor, who began serving in the position on Jan. 17, 2023.

Taylor is a 30-year veteran educator and the former deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Quality Counts ranks North Carolina No. 14 in the nation for K-12 achievement. A Laurel, Mississippi, native and University of Southern Mississippi graduate, Taylor began his career as a teacher’s assistant in Mississippi and served North Carolina public schools throughout his career as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, district superintendent and state education leader. As a district superintendent, Taylor distinguished himself for his work improving low-performing schools.

The SBE will schedule a special-called meeting in the coming days to name an interim state superintendent and take steps to begin a new search.