BOE interviews final superintendent candidates
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – The Board of Education completed superintendent interviews Thursday night with its final two candidates: William Holladay, principal and director of alternative programs for Oxford City Schools, and Sharon Streeter, director of special education for Dallas County Schools.

Each was asked the same set of 15 questions, which were provided in advance, regarding board/superintendent relations, student achievement, financial management and strategic planning, employee relations and community involvement.

When asked how he would handle a board member disagreeing with his recommendation, Holladay said he does not foresee that happening. “If we keep the focus on high student achievement, it’ll be my job to make sure I’m giving you every bit of data to know why I’m making a decision, so that before we ever get to a public meeting, you have what you need,” he said. “Now, professional discourse is good, but I believe we would have discussions before we ever got to (a meeting.)”

Streeter said the superintendent’s connection with the BOE should be “based on the ideal of respect, and with that comes trust. There also needs to be opportunity for collaboration and communication, and the opportunity to share roles and responsibilities, as well as values, missions, visions,” she said, adding that policies and procedures should be put in place to support that relationship.

As for student achievement, Holladay said he started and directs an alternative program at Oxford, and he helped start a freshman academy to aid students in the high school transition. The academy produced zero dropouts and a 97 percent graduation rate in its first class.

Streeter said she is a proponent of having, and constantly evaluating and amending, an action plan for instruction. “By analyzing data, you’re able to drive instruction,” she said, adding that “it is critical to inspect what you expect as leaders” with monthly progression meetings to tweak instruction based on student performance.

Fiscal management should focus on getting dollars back to the students, Holladay said. “Every federal and state dollar has to be spent on what has to be done for personnel to make sure you don’t lose anything,” he said. “Then you look at your local funds to be supportive of what’s going on in the schools, the extracurricular things.”

Streeter again supported creating a data-based action plan for fiscal management. “Even though you have a plan, you need to make that plan live by monitoring what’s in that plan, and I think the school administrators are the instructional leaders in the school, so they should be responsible for making sure those goals are working.”

Regarding employee relations, Holladay said his philosophy is there are two employees in a school system. “There’s teachers, and everybody that supports teachers, and that’s the thing the employees in my building appreciate. I’m not laissez faire in leadership. They know who’s in charge, but I let them handle the things they need to be doing.”

As for conflict resolution among employees, Streeter feels “the leader dictates the climate. If I’m positive and come in with a positive attitude, employees will feel comfortable coming to me about a conflict that may occur.”

Both agreed community involvement is vital. Holladay said citizens “are the stakeholders the product is being produced for,” but should keep involvement within the parameters of school planning and student support organizations.

Streeter said schools are community-based, “so it’s critical to know what the citizens think about what we’re doing in schools.” In the past, she has held parent awareness fairs, open forums and sent questionnaires to gather public input.

Holladay, who handed out a 45-day entry plan to the board, said he is student-centered and a strong leader. “I’m not going to have a personal agenda or a hidden agenda,” he said. “I’m very transparent.”

Streeter said she is a great candidate for the system and described herself as an “instructional leader who is results-oriented, student-centered, innovative, and passionate about teaching and learning, and an advocate for all students.”

The BOE held a called meeting after interviews, where it entered into an executive session to discuss good name and character.

Earlier this week, the board interviewed Anthony Ball, director of operations for Scottsboro City Schools; Donald Dotson, assistant superintendent for Montgomery County BOE; Michael Freeman, principal for Auburn City Schools; and Shannon Stanley, assistant superintendent for Lee County Schools. BOE President Jennie McGhee previously said board members hoped to narrow the candidates to two and then call references as the next step in the process.

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© 2013