by Danny Wade
The Humboldt School Board took a big step moving forward Thursday evening during their monthly meeting in hiring a permanent superintendent. Last month, the board voted to use Tennessee School Boards Association to assist in the search for the next director of schools.
TSBA Assistant Executive Director Ben Torres attended the school board meeting last week and gave an overview of the process. Torres said there are two parts of the hiring process—a timeline, and criteria and qualifications of superintendent candidates.
Torres said the board must adopt the timeline. He laid out his recommendations. The first step is for TSBA to send out a vacancy notice across the United States. Candidates would have until May 7, 2021 to apply for the position.
At this point, TSBA will screen each candidate’s application, resume and transcripts, and make sure they meet the minimum qualifications according to Humboldt school policy. TSBA will select the top three to five candidates.
The second date, May 13, is when TSBA performs the interview process, and then determine their top three candidates as their recommendations for the superintendent position.
May 24 through 28, the school board will interview each of the recommended candidates. If the school board does not believe any of the three candidates are right for the job, Torres noted TSBA would submit more applicants that are next in line.
During the June school board meeting, the board will decide whom to hire as superintendent of Humboldt City Schools. The newly hired director of schools will begin July 1, 2021, the beginning of the school system’s fiscal year.
Board Chairman Valeria Wedley said the interim superintendent, Lillian Shelton, is interested in the job.
Torres said Humboldt has a policy that says the interim superintendent cannot apply without board approval.
Board member Terry Johnson said the board could change that policy.
Torres agreed, but noted there is a policy on procedure of changing policies that must be followed.
Board member Leon McNeal said the board should be careful when changing a policy for one particular situation and how it could affect things in the future.
The board approved TSBA’s timeline recommendation and the qualifications for then next school superintendent.
Virtual Learning Academy
School board members discussed a growing trend among school systems across the nation. Virtual schools are being offered by many school systems and became more popular during the COVID pandemic.
Humboldt City Schools’ Wayne Sheehan addressed the board on how the proposed Virtual Learning Academy would work. He said the state allows school systems to apply to create a new school that would be completely virtual. It would be a new school; meaning Humboldt would have four schools if a virtual school were approved. Students attending Humboldt City Schools Virtual Learning Academy would not attend classes in any of the other three school buildings—Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School, East Elementary School or Stigall Primary School.
McNeal asked where the virtual students would attend.
Board member Wayne McLemore said they could attend from anywhere.
Sheehan said the new school would have administration and teachers for grades k-12.
Wedley stated that she sees this as a Humboldt homeschool under Humboldt City Schools.
McNeal said he personally does not like virtual learning. He said it is not working this year and there are issues keeping up with the kids.
McLemore agreed with McNeal. He said even after years of homeschooling, it’s a joke.
Sheehan said there would be accountability that must follow state guidelines.
It was noted that if Humboldt does not create a new virtual school, other school districts such as Jackson-Madison County and Gibson County Special School District are already in the process of creating virtual school. Humboldt students could opt out of attending school here and transfer to another school district that does offer virtual learning.
McLemore asked how would technology work, and where will the teachers and administrators work. He said he needed more information before he could make a decision.
Sheehan said Humboldt City Schools could apply for a virtual school but would have the option to withdraw the application. He also noted the longer the board waits to seek the application, it would put Humboldt lower on the list of applicants.
The board voted 4-1 to apply for the application to created a new school for virtual learning. McLemore voted against the motion, stating he needs more information.
Recognition to Dorrington Reid
Interim superintendent, Lillian Shelton, presented a request to the board to recognize Dorrington “Junior” Reid for his 40 years as a teacher and coach. He is a product of Humboldt City Schools and received a scholarship to UT Knoxville to play football for the Volunteers, then briefly had a stint with the NFL.
Joe Shepherd, also a Humboldt product, teacher and coach, reached out to Shelton to honor coach Reid and submitted a petition with 400 signatures in favor of honoring him.
Board member Mark Hodge asked if this would be a one-time thing or will there be more to come.
Shelton said she would like to honor others. She threw out a few names of her own in Jim Poteete and Kelcey Williams.
Wedley liked the idea but asked if the recognitions would only be for athletes.
Shelton said it could be open to anyone.
Hodge did not like the idea of having 30 or 40 statues and suggested creating a hall of fame instead. He said his decision has nothing to do with Reid. Hodge said Reid is deserving and he has always been impressed during their conversations.
The board voted to recognize Reid, 4-1 with Hodge voting against the motion since he preferred a hall of fame instead.
During the superintendent’s report, Shelton touched on a few topics. First she said HCS Food Service Director Ginny Hatch said the new EBT cards have been sent out. All students are receiving these cards as part of the federal stimulus packages approved Federal and State officials
Shelton briefly spoke on a T-Mobile grant for 117 hotspot devices for Humboldt students to have wireless wi-fi in their homes.
She spoke of the newest stimulus money coming down from Washington D.C. where Humboldt will receive almost $4.5-million.
Humboldt teacher and coach Chandra Maclin addressed the board. Maclin said she has been with Humboldt City Schools for six years. She asked the board to always base their decisions on what is best for the school district.
Former Humboldt student Jamal Boykin also addressed the board members. Boykin, who is an attorney, said he was there at the request of interim superintendent Shelton and he will be counseling her as she leads the school.