By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Board of Education voted 7-2 to begin contract negotiations with Donald Andrews to serve as the next Cumberland County director of schools Saturday.
Andrews was one of six finalists interviewed by the board April 6. The board's original timeline included narrowing the candidate pool to two for a second round of one-on-one interviews, but the board discussed the need to move quickly on hiring a new director following the interviews last week.
Andrews received nominations from Charles Tollett, 1st District representative; Sandy Brewer, 2nd District representative; Josh Stone, 4th District representative; Jim Blalock, 8th District representative; David Bowman, 7th District representative; and Vivian Hutson, 6th District representative.
James Francis was nominated by Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative; Gordon Davis, 5th District representative; and Dan Schlafer, 9th District representative.
Stone moved to negotiate a contract for the director of schools position with Andrews, supported by Bowman.
Andrews of Ashboro, NC, has 17 years' experience as a superintendent, currently serving Randolph County, NC, schools, and was honored as the Superintendent of the Year in 2005 and 2012 by the North Carolina Athletic Association. He has also served as a high school principal and assistant superintendent.
He has an educational specialist degree in educational administration and a master's degree in educational administration. His accomplishments include completing a $118 million building program and a reorganization that saved $500,000 in savings over a six-year period. He also implemented professional learning communities, lead teacher programs, evaluation instruments for principals and teachers and a response to intervention program.
Francis of Spring Hill, TN, is currently the Middle Tennessee regional coordinator for the Tennessee Department of Education. His experience includes 10 years as superintendent of the Hazard Co., KY, Independent Schools where the high school ranked fifth in the state. He was a high school coach, retiring with a 175-26 record, and a federal program director for 50 Tennessee school systems. He also authored the paper for superintendents, "Working with the Local Funding Body."
He holds a doctorate of education from Trevacca University.
Schlafer said he believed either candidate would serve the county well, but he did have concerns about Andrews, who would be coming to the state of Tennessee at a time of continued reform and change in the educational system, including changes to federal programs and state monitoring requirements. He pointed to Francis' experience, which includes serving in the Tennessee Department of Education.
"The learning curve, in my mind's eye, for someone who's already been here, done that, is astronomical compared to someone who has not had that opportunity," Schlafer said. "When I look at the myriad of changes that are coming down, with more to follow, and I look at relationships he has already established with the Tennessee Department of Education, that's why I chose Dr. Francis."
Janeway said Francis' experience in Tennessee was a plus. Andrews was a well-rounded candidate, having served in a number of positions. However, Janeway pointed out Andrews would be coming from a much larger school system in another state. The Randolph County School system has an enrollment of more than 18,600 students and more than 2,500 employees. It includes 17 elementary schools, six middle schools, six high schools and one early college high schools. Andrews notified the Randolph County Board of Education in September 2012 of his intent to retire and is currently working with his replacement there.
"My concern is how far removed he is because he's a director of schools with four or five assistants," Janeways said. "When he takes the 17 years' experience and sits down to a job with many hats, being involved more in finance, being more involved in personnel and being more involved in building, I think that could be a culture shock."
Schlafer also pointed to Francis' experience of having served as a county commissioner in Tennessee.
Davis said he was impressed with Francis and thought he was a "motivator" and was "head and shoulders above" other candidates.
However, he added Andrews was a candidate he could support and was in his top three picks.
Stone said, in his opinion, Andrews was "head and shoulders above" other candidates.
"When you look at his 17-year career, and I looked high and low to find blemishes and there are almost none, that's one thing...In a position like that, it's hard to come out unscathed and that he's been able to do that is something," Stone said.
Tollett said the board didn't specify the candidate must be from Tennessee when it instructed its consultant to bring the six best candidates.
He added the position was not a budget director, legal counsel or federal programs director.
"All of those things you can employ," Tollett said. "We're talking about someone who understands the whole system and puts it together.
"I think it's a once in a long-time opportunity to get someone with the experience of Donald Andrews," he added.
The motion to negotiate a contract with Andrews passed with Tollett, Janeway, Blalock, Brewer, Bowman, Stone and Hutson voting in favor, and Schlafer and Davis voting against.
Tollett reminded the board of consultant Wayne Qualls' advice once a decision was made to take a unanimous vote of support for the chosen candidate.
"It would seem important if the board could say it unanimously approved the candidate," he said.
Schlafer agreed and moved to approve Andrews unanimously, supported by Davis. The motion passed with all board members voting in favor.
Blalock said he would contact Andrews and begin contract negotiations. He asked board members to begin thinking about what they would like to have in the contract with the new director.
Tollett added, "Selecting the director of schools is important, but then we need to be the kind of board that lets the director be successful."