Getting down to the nitty-gritty… Elizabethton City Schools search for superintendent enters interview stage

Published 1:43 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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The process of selecting the next Elizabethton City School Superintendent continues to accelerate toward the selection of the person who will be replacing Dr. Corey Gardenhour effective on July 1st, 2020.
A called meeting was held on Tuesday in the city school board room as members of the board were finally able to meet in person while adhering to social distancing after conducting the last few meetings via Zoom.
The main item on the agenda was to decide how many external candidates that the board wanted to bring in to interview during the public interview session which will take place on Saturday, June 13th beginning at 9 AM also in the city school board room.
All three of the internal candidates – Richard VanHuss, Dr. Myra Newman, and Travis Thompson, who currently work for the school system will be interviewed for the position as well.
Chairwoman Rita Booher opened the meeting by taking the time to thank those on the search committee for their diligence in narrowing the applicants down to their top five candidates for interviews externally.
“If you see our committee members, please thank them,” Booher said. “Those folks have all volunteered to do this and they have spent a ton of hours on this.”
Board member Dr. Grover May also echoed Booher’s sentiments.
“They spent a lot of time calling references and digging into the applications,” stated May. “We are elected to do it and it is our duty and they were totally volunteering.
“And to honor that I will say I am okay just to restrict these to the top five they selected to me personally because they felt that confident in these five.”
After discussing how to approach the interviews, it was determined that the board would interview the committee’s top five candidates with one exception as Dr. Christopher Ballenger, the current Assistant Superintendent of Smyth County Public Schools in Virginia had a conflict with another interview and the board decided to move forward with the other four whom all confirmed their availability.
Booher was asked after the meeting about the importance of making the right selection for the next superintendent and the pressure of that decision.
“It’s the most important decision that we are ever going to make,” Booher stated. “I had a teacher kind of sum it up for me that the person that we appoint sets the tone and direction for the next two, three, and four years and determines teacher’s careers, the trajectory of our students and there’s nothing more important than this process and it’s one of those things you lose a lot of sleep over and you worry over and at the end of the day you just want to have a good feeling that the next person is going to build on the foundation that Dr. Gardenhour has laid out for us.
“This person that is coming in, other than the COVID-19 unknown, Dr. Gardenhour has set this person up to be very successful.”
After the interview process is complete, the board will meet in a called meeting afterward to flesh out their thoughts on what they heard from the candidates in a time that Booher said was important that each board member speak up and be candid about their thoughts about the candidates.
“This will be my third superintendent search and have been very fortunate at the end of the day that we had the right person,” Booher commented. “We might not have everybody agree but the goal is and in the beginning, we are not going to agree – we are going to have five different opinions.
“At the end of the day, Tuesday night before we leave I want us all to be. I think it is important, at best, your goal is to get a unanimous vote because it sets the tone that the board will support that director.
“It’s hard when that doesn’t happen because the director then is starting back from about three places,” Booher continued. “It’s really great when you have got the board saying, “I’m going to be behind you, I am going to help you” and sometimes the person you initially want may not, you may have thought I want this person but the majority of the board chooses something that is our job to be all right, you are our guy or girl and we are going to support you.
“There is no room for petty in this basically.”
The one thing that all the board agreed upon was the quality of applications that were received for the position. With candidates coming from various professional levels and with different experiences over their career, the selection process will be difficult at most.
“To me, it meant everything that the caliber of the candidates, especially external candidates who are studying us and saying I want to move my family and I want to come and live there and I want this to be the next place in my career,” said Booher.
“Just incredible candidates and that was the thing I was hearing from people in our screening committee and everybody was just so impressed with the level of experience, the level of education – these people have spent a lot of time building solid resumes.
“They have advanced degrees and have different levels of experience. A lot of them have gone through the process of getting certified to be a superintendent and some have been a superintendent so it’s going to be tough which is a good problem to have.”
The interviews will be opened to the public with social distancing observed.  No cell phones or recording devices will be permitted and once the interviews begin, the doors will be closed with no entry or leaving during the interview to provide courtesy to the candidates.
A 15-minute meet and greet with the public will follow a 45-minute interview and the candidate will be asked to leave the building before the next interview begins.
The seven candidates to be interviewed and interview times are as follows as drawn from a basket to set interview times for each.
– Dr. Greg Rockhold (9 am via Zoom due to distance constraints)
Dr. Rockhold is currently the Assistant Principal/Athletic Director at Heizer Middle School in Hobbs, New Mexico.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree and a Minor in Business Administration and Marketing from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, NM. Dr. Rockhold received his Masters of Education degree in General Education also from Eastern New Mexico University and completed his Ph.D. with an emphasis in Educational Leadership from Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, NM.
He holds Licensure as an Alaska Superintendent and Principal, Tennessee Beginning Administration, Colorado Professional Administrator and Principal, Mississippi Administrators, New Mexico Administrative K-12 (3A & 3B), and Kentucky Superintendent.
-Dr. David Rizor (10 am)
Dr. Rizor is from Villas, NC, and is currently an Educational and Organizational Consultant who has much experience in Charter Schools.
He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Science Education from the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Wyoming. Dr. Rizor also holds a MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wyoming and an MS in Educational Leadership from Western Governor’s University in Salt Lake City, Utah.
He received his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wyoming.
-Travis Thompson (11 am)
Thompson is currently the Director of Early Learning, Testing K-12, Curriculum 6-12, Attendance, Data and Related Services, and Athletics for the Elizabethton City Schools.
He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education, K-12 from East Tennessee State University, and his Educational Specialist (Ed.S) in Supervision and Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University.
Thompson completed his Master of Education degree in Elementary Education, K-6 from ETSU, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at ETSU with a projected completion date of 2020.
He also is a graduate of the Tennessee Prospective Superintendent Academy.
-Dr. Myra Newman (1 pm)
Dr. Newman is currently the Deputy Director for the Elizabethton City School System.
She received her B.A. in Special Education from the University of Tennessee – Chattanooga and her Master’s degree in School Psychology also from UT-C.
Dr. Newman also completed her Ed.S. in Educational Leadership from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate and received her Ed.D in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from Lincoln Memorial.
-Dr. Myles Hebrard (2 pm)
Dr. Hebrard is currently the Supervisor of Special Education for the Oak Ridge School System in Oak Ridge.
He received his B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Charleston and his M.S. in Special Education (K-12 Modified and Comprehensive) from the University of Tennessee with an additional endorsement in Elementary 1-8.
Hebrard received his Ed.S. in Special Education from U-T as well as his Administrative Licensure – Educational Leadership and Supervision.
He completed his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from East Tennessee State University. Hebrard also completed the TSBA Prospective Superintendents Academy.
-Richard VanHuss (3 pm)
VanHuss is currently the Assistant Director of Schools for the Elizabethton City School System.
He received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Tennessee and received his Master’s in Education from Milligan University.
VanHuss received his Ed.S. in Educational Specialist in Education, Administration, and Supervision from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate.
-Dr.David Martin (4 pm)
Dr. Martin is currently the Superintendent for the Tennessee Department of Education (TN School for the Blind) in Nashville.
He received his B.S. from Tennessee State University in Political Science in Nashville and his M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from National Louis University in Chicago, IL.
Dr. Martin completed his Ed.S. in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate and a Ed.D in Educational Leadership from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.
He also completed the Superintendent Certification Program at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, KY.
Dr. Martin holds certificates from the Commonwealth of Kentucky (Superintendent, Principal, Social Studies-Rank 1), State of Tennessee (Superintendent, Principal, Social Studies, Special Education Modified K-12), and the State of Georgia (Educational Leadership (P-12), Social Studies, and Special Education).

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