“I recommend the board hires Dr. Michael Barber as our new superintendent,” said board member Cecil Fomby.
Board member Joe Sawyer seconded the motion, and the board unanimously approved to appoint Barber to the top position.
The audience, mostly teachers and administrators, clapped as Barber, who sat on the back row of chairs during the board meeting nodded his head, smiled and softly said, “Thank you, thank you.”
“Ya’ll hired a good man,” said Dr. Bobby Hathcock, the current superintendent of the Pell City School System.
Hathcock will officially retire July 1, and Barber will officially take the reins of the school system then.
Fomby, who has served nine years on the board, said this was something he has looked forward to.
“I feel like Dr. Hathcock has prepared Michael for this job,” Fomby said. “I’m elated to learn that the entire board agreed. It’s a great day.”
Sawyer, who seconded Fomby’s motion, said he thought Barber was the best candidate for the job.
“He has an exceptional ability to work with groups of people,” Sawyer said “He brings cohesion to a group, and he’s a man of the cloth.”
Barber is the pastor of Mount Zion Freewill Baptist Church in Pell City. He served as the associate pastor for the church for about 10 years before becoming the church’s pastor in 2007.
Chairwoman Tammie Williams said this was the first time the school board hired someone from within the school system as superintendent.
“I am so excited,” she said. “Today is a good day for Pell City.”
Williams said she believes the community, the staff and the children are excited as well about the board’s decision to hire Barber as the superintendent of schools.
“I look forward to his vision and strategy for our school system’s future,” she said.
The board interviewed four possible superintendent candidates last week.
The candidates included James Hethcox of Sylacauga, who is the founder and senior consultant of Educare Inc., which focuses on economic and workforce development issues that impact postsecondary institutions; Barber, who served as the Pell City Board of Education Assistant Superintendent for the past 16 years; Dr. Gayle Gover, who is the principal for Hueytown High School in Birmingham; and Allen Martin, who is an assistant superintendent for the Baldwin County Board of Education in Milledgeville, Ga.
Barber said he didn’t know what the board would do when they met for their Tuesday night board meeting.
“You hope in your heart, but you never know,” he said.
Barber grew up in the Pell City School System and is the first former Pell City student to ever apply and to be appointed to the system’s top job. He was a 1983 graduate of Pell City High School.
“It’s humbling,” he said.
Barber talked about his grandfather who only made it to the third grade in the local school system. His grandfather had to drop out of school to work in the cotton mill so the family could survive. That was only a generation ago.
“This is a huge day for me,” he said.
Barber earned his bachelor’s, master’s and EDS degrees from Jacksonville State University. He also has a doctorate in ministry from Temple Baptist Seminary.
“I want to thank the board,” Barber told the board after they made the decision to hire him as the new superintendent of schools. “This is the best school system anywhere. Thank ya’ll so much.”
Barber has worked in education for 24 years. He started his teaching career as a fourth-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School and then Stemley Elementary School.
Barber was promoted to assistant principal at Drew Middle School in the Talladega County School System, before becoming principal in 1997 at Iola Roberts Elementary School in Pell City.
He recalls when he interviewed for the principal job and toured Iola Roberts Elementary School before accepting the job.
“It was in July and teachers were working on their own time at Iola Roberts,” Barber said. “The people in the school system are hard working, caring people.”
He said that made him want to be a part of the school system.
Barber was promoted to assistant superintendent of the school system in 2001 and will hold that position until July when he takes over as the superintendent of schools.
“This smile will be on my face for a while,” Barber said after Tuesday night’s board meeting. “I pledge a vow to work hard and to keep the kids in the forefront…I am ready to go to work.”
Fomby, the vice-chairman of the board, was appointed to negotiate a contract with Barber.
Contact David Atchison at email@example.com