Loudon County picks Honeycutt as new schools superintendent

Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com
LOUDON - The Loudon County school board on Saturday voted unanimously to offer a contract for director of schools to former Roane County assistant superintendent Wayne Honeycutt.

Honeycutt, who describes himself as a consensus builder, is a Morgan County native and is currently superintendent in Sangamon Valley, Ill.

He will replace retiring director Edward Headlee.

Honeycutt was chosen from three finalists after several hours of questioning by members of the board. The three finalists were picked several weeks ago from a list of six candidates approved by a private consultant.

Answers to 10 questions prepared in advance were scored on a point scale of one to 10. The candidate with the highest point total was chosen by the board. Candidates Robert Lovingood and Deborah Raper were ranked second and third, respectively.

"I think the process worked very well for us," said board chairman Bobby Johnson Jr.

Johnson said the next step is to prepare a contract and finalize negotiations. The board has looked at contracts used by other districts and plans to offer Honeycutt a two- to three-year contract.

"We figure it's going to take him at least a year to get to understand the situation in the county," Johnson said. "After that, we'll see what he can do."

Honeycutt said he has no illusions about the challenges facing the school system, including a much-delayed capital expansion plan that has met with resistance from members of County Commission.

"I expect a lot of work," he said.

In addition to team building on the board itself, Honeycutt said he plans to make establishing a good relationship with County Commission one of his highest priorities.

He said his top three priorities will be the building program, establishing trust with the commission and student achievement.

Honeycutt said he fears the county will not have the money to fund the current building plan. In such a situation, he said, he expects the board to be flexible.

"I want to know what's plan B," he said.

Meanwhile, "I want to meet with County Commission, the county mayor and the business manager," he said.

When soliciting county commissions for funding in the past, Honeycutt said he had found it useful to bring the commissioners out to the school itself and show them why the money is needed and how it would help the children.

"We need to show that we are good stewards of the county's money," he said.

With regard to student achievement, Honeycutt said he is just as concerned about career and technical training as he is about college preparatory curriculum.

"The vast majority of students will not be college graduates," he said.

Honeycutt said he would like to start career and technical training as early as the middle school years to keep the non-college-bound students interested and engaged.

The biggest challenge Honeycutt could face might be from his own Board of Education. At least five of the current board seats will be challenged in the August election.

Honeycutt might face a board that is half-full of new members, none of whom would have been involved in his selection and hiring process, Chairman Johnson said.

"It's happened before," Johnson said, noting that there was a large turnover on the board shortly after current director Headlee was offered a new five-year contract in 2003.

Honeycutt said he had just recently become aware of the potential for a high turnover on the board. He said he was not concerned.

"My job is to work with everybody on the board, no matter who is on the board," he said.

Foot Note.

According to the Johnson City Press, on February 28th, Marvin Wayne Honeycutt was rejected as a candidate for the Washing County Director Of Schools. Coincidently,
also rejected by Washington County was Jason Vance, principal of Loudon Elementary School.