The Pell City Board of Education held a work session on Tuesday to see where they are headed after the announcement of the retirement of Pell City School Superintendent Dr. Michael Barber.

“With a vacancy comes a new opportunity,” said Sally Smith, Executive Director of the Alabama Association of School Boards. “We need to look forward to the next stage of Pell City schools.”

The vacancy for the Superintendent position must be posted for 30 days. The board has between four to six months to hire a candidate. During that time, they may place an interim superintendent for up to 180 days.

According to the Alabama Open Meetings Act, all discussion of salary, benefits and interviews will be open to the public.

“How do you involve the community to ascertain what the schools system needs as opposed to the personality of the superintendent that they want?” asked newly appointed board member Eldon Hall.

The board discussed getting the community involved through public interviews, meet and greets with applicants, community surveys, focus groups, and community meetings.

“This is one of the most pivotal decisions you’ll make as a school board,” said Smith. “Give yourself time to look at candidates and go through the process.”

According to the official posting of the superintendent position, the candidate qualifications include having a “Master of Arts Degree; three years of successful educational experience as a teacher, principal, supervisor, superintendent during five years preceding appointment; ability to view all aspects of issues and deal fairly, when views differ from own; possesses good high moral standing and integrity.”

Search responsibilities for the Pell City Board of Education include receiving applications, screening and evaluating candidates, conducting interviews, negotiations and appointment. The Alabama Association of School Boards also has a service to screen candidates and receive applications and bring up to five potential candidates to the board. The board discussed using their service, but has not made a final decision.

While the search continues, the board can appoint an interim superintendent, although board member Tammie Williams had some concerns.

“Most people already have a job that would have to be filed if they are appointed as interim,” Williams said. “It just seems weird to me to bring someone in the middle of the school year.”

The interim can serve up to 180 days, which would give the board additional time to screen and interview applicants. Sally Smith advised the board of the pros and cons of having an interim superintendent, stating “if all things possible, don’t have an interim as a candidate for the job, although it’s sometimes challenging to know if someone will be a candidate.”

Smith said that having an interim would give the board time to not feel as rushed to make a final decision and they have a list of retired superintendents that could possibly fill the interim position.

“It’s important to look at what type of superintendent you are looking for. What skills and attributes are important in a leader,” said Smith. “Look at what you need to take to the next stage and what your challenges and goals will be for the next five to ten years.”

Current Pell City School Superintendent Dr. Michael Barber announced his retirement at the end of May and his retirement will be effective beginning July 1. The first day of the 2019-2020 school year is August 8, leaving a very short time period for a superintendent appointment.

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