School board tightens rules for next leader

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The search for a superintendent for Bedford County Schools is on, after board members revised the policy regarding the position's duties and set the criteria for hiring during their regular meeting Tuesday evening at Harris Middle School's library.

Just more than a year into his tenure, Dr. Ray Butrum requested an administrative leave in mid-October, and the Bedford County Board of Education met on Nov. 1 to modify Butrum's contract to remove him as school superintendent.

Former superintendents Mike Bone and Ed Gray have agreed to step in on an interim basis until the position is filled.


The board first modified the school policy regarding qualifications and duties of the superintendent, a policy last updated in August 1998.

Board members struck language which indicated a preference for a doctorate degree, but will require a minimum of a master's degree in education.

To the requirement that candidates have three years of successful experience in school administration, the board added a preference for experience in secondary leadership and/or supervisory experience at the district level or higher.


The board expanded language regarding the superintendent's role in financial management of the system, defining a need for cooperation and collaboration with the Bedford County Finance Department and the Bedford County Financial Management Committee, of which the superintendent serves as a member.


Regarding community and public relations, the revised criteria added the following, "Develop and maintain positive working relationships with board, elected officials including county mayor, commission, finance department as well as state senator and state representative, and other appropriate community leaders."

The superintendent was directed in the prior policy to "Represent(s) the school system and its interests to community organizations, activities and projects." This language was modified to include the phrase "in a fair and objective manner." Board member Diane Neeley additionally suggested language to indicate this expectation should extend to any public conduct when the superintendent is outside of Bedford County.

When contacted following Tuesday night's meeting, Neeley said contractual agreements between the board and Butrum -- which prevent either party from disparaging each other -- prohibited her from being able to elaborate on the basis of the language change.

However, she did say, "When we look back over the past year (at the Bedford County system and other districts) we have learned that we need to be a little more specific about what we're looking for."

Board member Glen Forsee pointed out that 33 bulleted functions were listed in the overall guidelines. "Being realistic, the person to fulfill all 33 of these functions to the highest level does not exist. As we pursue this search, we need to be realistic -- a person grows into the position ... not one person can do everything."

"I would counter, they are responsible for those functions, would you not agree?" responded Chad Graham.

The vote to adopt the revised policy was unanimous.


In January 2011, upon announcement of Gray's retirement, the school board elected to use the services of the Tennessee School Board Association for the superintendent search. At that time TSBA provided recruiting services and evaluation of credentials, making a recommendation of a short list of candidates to the board.

Those services came with a guarantee: Should the choice not work out and the position become vacant again within two years, TSBA would assist with the new hiring process.

The board will again make use of TSBA's services, particularly in recruitment and advertising of the position. However, the board elected to evaluate submissions and choose candidates itself, as a group, instead of asking TSBA to do so.


According to a timeline suggested by board chair Amy Martin, the position will be advertised between Dec. 1 and Jan. 7. The board will meet then to open the submissions and will begin evaluating the candidates.

By Feb. 1, the board expects to select a short list of candidates and will schedule interviews, community meetings and visits. The board expects to make a selection of the top two candidates by the end of that month, negotiate a contract and announce the appointment of the new superintendent by March 5.

The start date for the new position is expected to be April 1, 2013.