Vance voted director of schools

Vicky Newman News-Herald

It is not often that members of the Loudon County Board of Education unanimously agree on anything, particularly issues of importance. However, it took the board only 10-15 minutes Monday evening to decide, unanimously, that Jason Vance, who currently serves as Assistant Director of Schools, was their top pick for the Loudon County Director of Schools position.

The school board contracted with the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) to review potential candidates, and narrow the slate down to five finalists. "They were looking at criteria like our population and who would be a good fit," said Scott Newman, school board chairman.

Vance was among the five finalists for succession to current director Wayne Honeycutt. Vance was the only candidate named by the entire school board. Other finalists named by the TSBA were Henry Baggett, Michael Lupo, Dr. Gerald Miller and Keevin Woody.

Newman said the April 18 special-called meeting at the Loudon County Technology Center was intended to narrow the slate of finalists further, to two. He wasted no time getting to the issue. "Why don't we take a tally and discuss it when we get our tally," he said, as soon as the agenda was approved.
When board members were polled, the second-place vote getter was Miller. Board members Van Shaver, Craig Simon and Newman voted only for Vance, without naming a second candidate.

Member Gary Ubben said he thought there would be some discussion about the candidates before anybody voted. "I thought it would be appropriate," he said. After mentioning several candidates, he said, "Both Jason (Vance) and Dr. Miller did a good job. ... I would go with Vance and Gerald Miller."

Lisa Russell selected Lupo and Vance.

After the poll was completed, Newman said, "We can open it for discussion. We were just throwing them out, but it looks like Vance is at the top of the list."

Board member Ric Best noted that the action to hire a director will require a super majority (seven votes), and there was no way any candidate other than Vance would be close. "We should contact Mr. Miller and tell him what happened. ... He is well short of a super majority," he said.

Newman said he felt it would be unfair to call Miller back for a second interview, and give him false hope that he might be selected. "He lives two and a half or three hours away," he said.

Shaver said, "I move that we make it unanimous that we elect Vance as director."

The motion was approved unanimously. Newman said Vance's hiring will not be official until after a public meet-and-greet, slated for April 29, 6 p.m. at the Technology Center, and after contract negotiations with Vance are completed satisfactorily.

Although Honeycutt's contract runs through June, some board members were ready to look for ways for Vance to take the reins. 

Newman said, "I suggest the board vote we hand it over to Jason, to do as he sees fit, with what to do with Mr. Honeycutt."

Tate said he felt Vance should be placed in charge immediately. "My personal opinion is we should pay Honeycutt what he is due and make Jason take it. You can't have two people in charge. We found that out years ago..."

Ubben disagreed. "Mr. Honeycutt has been extremely courteous and professional. ... My observation has been that he and Jason have worked quite well together. My thought is that it would be a slap in the face."

Newman said the issues need more discussion. Board members want the budgeting process and personnel issues for the coming year to be led by Vance. "We could let Mr. Honeycutt do a different job, or we could pay him and let him go home," he said.

The only other issue discussed during the meeting was the resurfacing of the Loudon High School track. Cheri Parrish, LHS principal, said time was of the essence to get a contract in place. The board was divided on whether to proceed with rubberized resurfacing or asphalt. No action was taken.