School board hires consultant for Director search
Story by Shannon Taylor Senior Investigative Reporter
The Weakley County School Board held a special-called meeting and voted 5-3 with four absent to hire Wayne Qualls as a consultant for the Director of Weakley County Schools (WCS) search. The price to hire Qualls was $5,000 not to exceed $7,000.
Qualls said this is his 55th year in education. He said that he’s been in every role that could be filled in K-12 and higher education. He said that he and the Director of WCS have been friends and peers for many years and has admired his work. “Congratulations Randy on achieving the place in life that you’re at.”
Qualls helped serve with former Governor Ray McWherter when the Tennessee Division of Accountability was started in 1991. He also served as Commissioner for McWherter and promised him that he would stay and turn the lights off when he left. “He was the best boss that anyone could possibly have had.”
Qualls has conducted over 55 searches in the state in the past 17 years and averages around three every year. “It’s not an easy process. Randy leaving is both good and bad. It’s good because he’s been highly successful in what he’s doing. It’s not an adversarial transfer so to speak. The bad part is that he’s done so the bar is high. Whoever you decide to come in behind him, the bar is going to be high to find the person that’s going to fill those shoes.”
Qualls said that what he had to offer was that he knows what a good superintendent looks like, to make sure that the board follows the process, and to do all that he can to make sure that the board has a smooth process and that the board presents a professional and transparent way of doing the search and that everyone is treated the same. “That is of great importance in this process. You’ve got to stay the course on your process otherwise you’re going to send the wrong message to the people here and the community.”
Qualls said that was he does is if there’s candidates, he recruits. He searches high and low for the right person. He searches for local candidates. He said that traditionally he goes in and interviews every candidate himself, personally. He also plans to meet with each member of the board one on one so that they are all comfortable with one another during the process. He would also develop a protocol with the boards most pertinent questions for candidates and put that together for a public interview that would flow how it should flow.
One thing that Qualls listed as being very important is asking the same questions of each candidate during the public interview process so that the message being sent is that everyone has been treated the same. Candidates and the Director will not know the questions until they are asked. He stated that one of the most important aspects of the new director is being able to trust them. He also said that from the time he comes on the process generally takes 60-90 days. Qualls said that the average tenure in the State of Tennessee for a superintendent is 2.8 years. “This job is a thankless job under the best conditions.”
As far as getting people to apply, Qualls said, “You’re handcuffed because it’s got to be all public.” Because of the way the law is written in Tennessee, everything has to be public as far as the search for a new director. Qualls said that what drives someone to apply should be the educators and students in school. “That should be of upmost importance.”
Strengths of a superintendent need to be that they know their audience and have the communication ability to deal with whomever they’re talking to according to Qualls. “If you can’t communicate with people, you’re not going to succeed.” Other things include the right morals and mind set to be a leader.
Right now, the board has received three applications and the deadline at this point is Friday, March 10. The board has set a special-called meeting to see where they stand and if the deadline needs to be extended for Monday, March 13 at 5 pm at the Board of Education Office in Dresden. The next regular board meeting will be held at Martin Middle School on Thursday, April 6 at 5 pm.