Loudon school director hopefuls to meet with citizens

By Hugh G. Willett, news@knews.com
Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The search for Loudon County's next director of schools will be conducted through a series of interviews where the public can question the candidates.

"This will take the politics out of the process," school board Chairman Bobby Johnson Jr. said.

The interview process was devised by Wayne Qualls, a consultant to the county who was involved in narrowing the initial list of candidates to the six that will be a part of the final interview process, Johnson said.

The first round of interviews for the six finalists will be 8 a.m. Saturday, April 5, at the central office in Loudon, Johnson said. Three of the six will be selected for the final review.

The final three candidates will attend a "meet and greet" event at First Baptist Church of Lenoir City 6-9 p.m. April 25. Final interviews will be conducted April 26.

"I got a lot of calls from people who wanted to give their input," he said. "We also wanted to stop any rumors that politics was involved in the decision."

Under the proposed interview process, each board member will be allowed to ask questions of the candidates and each of the candidates will be asked the same questions. The public also may submit questions.

"We think this will make it fair for all the candidates," Johnson said.

The decision on the final candidate and negotiation of the contract for the new director could be finished by the middle of May, he added.

Van Shaver, a former county commissioner running for the school board, feels the decision of selecting the next director is too important to be left to school board members who might not be re-elected in August. Shaver said he would like to see the final selection process postponed until after the election.

Wendy Baustian, president of the Loudon Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization and candidate for the school board, said she would like to see incoming board members involved in the selection process but thinks it is more important to move the process ahead.

The board has been stuck in a cycle of procrastination and stalemate that has delayed much needed improvements to the schools, Baustian said, and continued delays can only hurt. Johnson acknowledges the concerns but is more concerned about moving the process forward.

"It's like the school building program," Johnson said. "It just keeps getting dragged out."

Outgoing schools director Edward Headlee said it's not the first time candidates for school board have suggested holding off the signing of a new director until after an election that may bring a large change to the board.

"The last time we had major changes in the board was just after I had signed a new contract," Headlee said. "There were some new board members who would have liked to have been a part of the process."

Headlee said that when he announced his retirement last year he told the board he would be available to extend his contract if necessary.

The semi-finalists for Loudon County director of schools:

Ken Cline: Education consultant in Toledo, Ohio; former superintendent in Ohio systems.

Edd Diden: Superintendent, Cannon County, Tenn.

Wayne Honeycutt: Superintendent in Illinois, formerly assistant superintendent in Roane County, Tenn.

Robert Lovingood: Superintendent, Christian County, Ky.; formerly superintendent, Monroe County, Tenn.

Deborah Raper: Most recently director of federal projects and curriculum director, Stupski Foundation; 1971 Lenoir City High graduate.

Steve Moser: Coordinator of alternative programs for Blount County, Tenn.; 1974 graduate of Lenoir City High. Sources: Loudon County; Cleveland (Tenn.) Daily Banner