By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
The Cumberland County Board of Education narrowed its choice to two different firms to assist in the search for a new director of schools.
Out of seven firms, the BOE decided to interview Wayne Qualls, who submitted a proposal at a cost of $5,000 and the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) with two different packages, one at $5,000 and the other at $8,500.
Both firms are from Tennessee.
The BOE will interview the two firms at a work session tentatively set for Dec. 18.
Prior to that decision, a motion made by Vivian Hutson, 6th District representative, to form a committee and study the various proposals and have that committee make a recommendation to full BOE failed.
"There is a lot of details in these (proposals) and I haven't felt like we've had enough time to read through them all," Hutson said.
Hutson said she thought a committee could go through all of the fine details and then make a recommendation based on its study.
"The only problem I have with that is the timeline. If you look at the total cost, there's not a lot of options for the search committee," said Josh Stone, 4th District representative.
Stone said he read them all and, "We can't afford $30,000 for one even if we want it according to what we budgeted. We need to get started on this."
"I agree. This is the most important decision we're going to make for years to come and I think we all need to read the proposals and not leave (the decision) up to two or three members. We all need to make the decision," said Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative.
"Why not bring two or three in and have them make a presentation to the board?" Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle asked.
"How was the selection done last time? We're acting like we're rushed. We could do like what was done last time and put an interim director in there until we hire someone permanent," Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative.
"Well, you've got seven months. Surely you won't need an interim and can make a decision in that time," VanWinkle said.
Charles Tollett, 1st District representative, said, "We've known about it for 12 months and have a clear idea of what we have to do, but the board has not clarified key issues. If we go with the firms in state then we've only got two (firms) and not seven."
Jim Blalock, 8th District representative and BOE chairman, said the BOE needs to decide what they're looking for in a candidate and then "hunt for somebody for the full-time position."
"I agree, we need to know what we want before hiring a consultant," Hutson said.
"If we pick a firm then we start the process. They will help us build the ideal candidate ... I thought we would be picking a consultant tonight," Stone said.
BOE members voting against forming a committee to review the consulting firms were Tollett, Janeway, Stone, Godon Davis, 5th District; and Dan Schlafer, 9th District.
Voting in favor of forming the committee were Brewer, Hutson, David Bowman, 7th District; and Blalock.
Janeway then said he felt the consulting firm would help the BOE determine what the board wants in a candidate through interviews with teachers, parents and the community.
"We could have work sessions every day for the next three weeks, but the (community's) opinion matters more than mine," Janeway said.
He then made a motion to narrow the consulting firm proposals down to TSBA and Qualls and to let them make presentations to the board at a work session, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 18 at 5 p.m. in the BOE conference room.
"That way we can interview them then," Janeway said.
Brewer supported the motion and it was approved in an 8-1 vote. Blalock voted against the motion.
Tollett said, "I hope we can pull our information together and save time and expense and not ask the public for their opinion after finding out what we want."
Other firms submitting consulting proposals included Cascade, at a cost varying anywhere from $19,000 to $29,850; HYA with a cost ranging from $21,000 up to $31,500; McPherson & Jacobson at $22,335; PROACT at a cost ranging from $18,000 to $26,000; Ray and Associates at a cost ranging from $17,000 up to $23,450.
TSBA offers two packages, one at $5,000 and one at $8,500. Wayne Qualls quoted a proposal price of $5,000.