Assistant Superintendent Karen Scoggins has been appointed interim superintendent over candidate Sharon Edwards, a former principal. The Bedford County Board of Education made the appointment in a 5-4 vote during a special called meeting Monday evening...
Assistant Superintendent Karen Scoggins has been appointed interim superintendent over candidate Sharon Edwards, a former principal.
The Bedford County Board of Education made the appointment in a 5-4 vote during a special called meeting Monday evening.
Scoggins, then a principal, was a finalist for director in 2013.
Voting for Scoggins were Brian Crews; Michael Cook, who nominated her; Dr. Andrea Anderson; Nicole Cashion; and Glenn Forsee. Voting for Edwards were David Brown; Dan Reed; Chairwoman Diane Neeley, who nominated her; and John Boutwell.
Before the vote to appoint Scoggins, the board had to modify a personnel policy. Since a policy does not allow the assistant director to become the interim, the board held a roll call vote on “inclusion” to make an exception. A “Yes” vote means the member agreed to allow the assistant director to serve as interim. Voting yes were Crews; Cook; Anderson; Cashion; and Forsee. Voting no were Brown; Reed; Neeley; and Boutwell.
In nominating Edwards, Neeley said she was addressing “speculation and rumors.” She said that she had spoken to numerous people about the interim job, including retired directors outside the district, and sought advice from Dr. Tammy Grissom, executive director of the Tennessee School Board Association. Neeley handed out to board members what she said was a list of Edwards’ accomplishments.
Cook said it would be logical to ask retiring Superintendent Don Embry if he would like to stay on temporarily as interim director, and if not, consider the policy for the assistant.
Neeley said she asked Embry, who was not interested. She said she did not want to change the policy, which is “there for a reason” and she did not want to set a precedent for changing policies in the future.
Cook said it was not as much about changing the policy as it was voting to allow the person serving as interim to apply for the permanent job.
Crews said he had an issue with whether Neeley had the authority to take the action she did.
Educators have asked him how a board chair can “single-handedly” enter into discussions with an interim superintendent, he said. When Neeley tried to say something, Crews said he still had the floor. Crews cited TSBA policies and Tennessee law that he said do not authorize a chairperson to enter into such discussions without board authorization. The board never gave her that authorization, he said.
Crews also said the board recently authorized spending $11,500 with the TSBA to conduct a “transparent process.” He said this was not an indictment against Edwards, but the process.
Neeley said she did not negotiate with Edwards — she asked if the former principal was interested. Neeley said any board member could recommend a candidate.
Neeley said Crews was trying to “crucify” her. Crews said he was crucifying the process.
Neeley said anyone on the board had the chance to talk to candidates, and she believed she could do so based on a previous board meeting. She said she did not intend to offend anyone, and she had consulted with the TSBA.
Anderson said she did not believe Neeley had intended “anything untoward.” She said she wanted to keep a sense of continuity in the district’s leadership.
Cook said he was not personally attacking Neeley. He said he did not think he could ask people about considering the interim job and wished all the members could have done that.
Neeley spoke to the T-G after the meeting.
She said TSBA policies, that were cited in connection to a chairperson’s negotiations, do not actually mention a chairperson. She said she triple-checked the process to be assured she did not violate any policy. Anyone on the board could have nominated a candidate.
Neeley said that she had asked the board at a previous meeting to defer naming an interim director because she had asked a person about it and was awaiting an answer, and the board knew that.
An interim director is not a permanent hire and does not have authority to change things, Neeley said.
“I didn’t do anything wrong,” she said.
The policy that was mentioned in regard to an assistant superintendent does not automatically disqualify that person from serving as interim, Neeley said. Instead, the policy says that if the assistant does not want to apply for the permanent job, he or she may be appointed as interim, unless the board permits an inclusion — which it did. Scoggins has expressed interest in the permanent director’s job.
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