NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Three candidates vying to become the next leader of Metro Schools have made it to the next round of interviews with the community through a series of public forums.
“I think we've drawn some quality candidates in spite ourselves, maybe not because of ourselves,” board member Will Pinkston said.
Thursday, before interviews began, a coalition of ten organizations joined a growing number of groups urging the board to halt the search process amid concerns that the qualifications of the candidates didn’t fit what the needs of Metro Schools. Board members were among those willing to put a stop to it but changed course by Friday afternoon after interviewing all four of the candidates.
“We believe we have candidates that are passionate about education, again knows what it takes to identify talent and leadership and to manage the resources of the district,” board chair Sharon Gentry said. “For me it has always been more about that the anything else.”
Gentry has always urged fellow board members to trust the process and now believes the next director of Metro Schools is one of the three remaining candidates.
Dr. John Covington, who was the only candidate with turnaround experience, was not asked to come back. He was the most controversial because of the tensions that arose from his departure from his last two superintendent positions. At the very beginning of his interview he addressed the “elephant in the room” and attempted to set the record straight.
“I have generated a considerable amount of negative press,” Dr. Covington said. “Most of what has been said is a misrepresentation of the truth and it undermines a career spanning nearly three decades.”
“There's such a thing as job fit that goes beyond skills and goes beyond even experience,” Gentry said. “I did not sense a good cultural fit with Dr. Covington.”
Finalist Dr. Barry Shepherd a retired Superintendent from North Carolina touted student retention in his district's traditional public schools despite competing choices and stressed that his experience, even in a smaller district, would translate well in Metro Schools.
Dr. Mike Looney highlighted his track record as Director of top rated Williamson County Schools. He applauded Metro's efforts but also said there would be an increased sense of urgency under his leadership.
The board indicated the most interest in Dr. Angela Huff, who currently serves as a Chief of Staff to the Superintendent in Cobb County Georgia. She stressed her collaborative nature as a strength. A Metro Schools graduate, Dr. Huff hopes to give back to the district she says gave her so much.
Public forums have been scheduled next week from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. so the public can meet the candidates.
The candidates will be available at those times on the following days:
- Dr. Huff: Monday, July 13, McGavock High School
- Dr. Looney: Tuesday, July 14, Pearl Cohn High School
- Dr. Shepherd: Wednesday, July 15, Glencliff High School
For more information on the forums, click here.
The school board said if there was still push back after the public meeting with the candidates they would consider stopping the process. In the meantime more extensive background checks will be conducted.
The school board hopes to make a final decision on July 23.