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3 state educators finalists for superintendent’s position

[03/28/01] Three educators from Mississippi are the finalists to be superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District. Interim superintendent Donald Oakes, who has directed the district for more than a year, is among them.

The other two are Dr. Timothy Havard, assistant superintendent of Jackson County School District in Vancleave; and Dr. Carl Davis, superintendent of Natchez-Adams School District.

The three names were released Tuesday, more than a week after their selection. Board of Trustees President Zelmarine Murphy had declined to make the names public until the three were contacted and their interest in the position was reconfirmed.

Interviews will begin April 14 and are scheduled so the finalists will have no contact with one another, Murphy said Tuesday. The selection is expected to be made by May 1, and the new superintendent will take over July 1.

The five members of the board of trustees and four of the 15 members of the superintendent search committee formed in April will conduct the interviews. The committee, made up of teachers, educators and parents, exists under the district’s Strategic Plan, which includes specific steps for the search for new personnel and was adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1997.

The four members participating in the interviews will be chosen randomly and named within a week, Murphy said.

“Because this is an interview, we didn’t want 250 people in there,” she said. “But, we did want the search committee involved.”

By state law, trustees will pick the new superintendent, Murphy said, but input from the four committee members “will be seriously considered.”

Search committee chairman Grey Ferris, a former state senator and president of the school board, said the members selected will be happy to help with the interview process. Ferris, also a former chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, led the search for the district’s first superintendent, Ed Gilley, after VWSD’s establishment in 1987.

“I have no problem with that,” he said Tuesday. “I certainly respect that decision and think it’s very appropriate.”

Two of the three finalists have doctorate degrees, but Murphy said educational background is not the most important factor in choosing the candidates. The district’s first superintendent, Gilley, had a doctorate. However, the other two, Charles Craft and Robert Pickett, who retired a year ago, did not, and Oakes does not.

“On-the-job experience is really the nuts and bolts of a good person,” Murphy said. “Education is important, but to have been there and done it is good.”

Twenty-three people inquired about the superintendent’s position, Murphy said last week. Eighteen applied and were interviewed and videotaped by Dr. Richard Boyd and Dr. Andy Mullins, consultants from the University of Mississippi hired to assist the 9,200-student district in its search for a new administrator. Mullins and Boyd recommended five finalists to the board in a private meeting earlier this month. Trustees reviewed videotapes and applications at last Tuesday’s meeting and chose three finalists.

The consultants’ contributions to the search process also included creating a VWSD brochure used to recruit applicants.

Murphy said the new superintendent should be named by the beginning of May. He will begin working July 1.

The school district, which serves all of Vicksburg and Warren County, includes 14 schools, employs about 600 teachers and other certified employees and operates on a $53 million budget. The superintendent’s pay will be negotiated after he is selected. As interim superintendent, Oakes is being paid $85,000 annually.