School leaders interview for top jobPublished 5:00am Saturday, March 10, 2012
The two candidates for Escambia County superintendent answered a wide range of questions Thursday, from how they would handle budget concerns to the role of athletics in schools.
School board members expect to make a decision between Interim Superintendent Randall Little and Escambia County High School Principal Zickeyous Byrd by the next board meeting March 22. Byrd and Little were presented with identical questions during the interview process.
Byrd met with board members first and outlined why he believes he is the clear choice for the position.
“I have a vision for this district,” Byrd told the board members. “I have a vested interest in this community. I don’t have the luxury of retiring in two or three years. I have to be successful and I’m driven to be successful.”
Byrd said providing a “high quality of education” for all Escambia County students would be his primary objective as superintendent and also stressed the role technology should play in achieving that goal.
“There have been a lot of schools that have used technology in a big way to improve education,” Byrd said. “Things are changing constantly and this is a major trend in our schools.”
Byrd also outlined a plan he said he would implement in Escambia County in order to provide a better line of communication between the central office and county schools.
“The superintendent serves in many ways as a liaison between the board and the people,” he said. “Communication with the schools is important. I think biweekly newsletters from each school is a good way to let us and the public know about all of the wonderful things going on in our schools.”
Byrd also pointed to his aggressive style of administration as a tool that would help improve the system both financially and in the classroom.
“We should be constantly looking for ways to increase revenue,” Byrd said. “We know that proration can be declared at any time and we need to be financially secure. I would aggressively seek grants in order to make the district more secure and more attractive to businesses.”
Byrd told BOE member his five years as principal at Escambia County Middle School and his two years as principal at ECHS should serve as an indication his “lack of experience” in administration would not be an issue were he to be named the new superintendent.
“When Escambia County Middle School was in school improvement the board put their trust in a young man to help with that situation and when a change was needed at Escambia County High School the board came and asked him to take that on. That young man was me, and I feel I have the capacity to make a change now.”
Little, who has served as interim superintendent since the retirement of Billy Hines in December 2011, also said his record speaks for itself.
“I have 40 years of experience in this line of work,” Little said. “My wife and I have enjoyed 11 years in this system in Escambia County.”
Little said the Escambia County school system is one of only a handful of Alabama districts that enjoy a reserve fund of more than the required one-month fiscal cushion.
“This system is currently sitting on a $12.6 million reserve,” Little said. “That is a testament to the work of this board and the voters in Escambia County.”
In response to BOE member Danny Benjamin’s question as to what some of the more important aspects of his tenure as superintendent would be, Little said it would all boil down to one word – communication.
“Not just communication,” he said. “Let me put an adjective in front of that. Effective communication. I learned a long time ago when discussing issues with anyone it’s always good to reach closure. To make sure you understand.”
Little also pointed to his nearly six years as assistant superintendent as a major reason why he would be the most effective choice for superintendent.
“In my five and a half years with this board we’ve been on the same page,” he said. “There have been some disagreements but those disagreements have been held very professionally. It’s not personal. You make a professional decision.”
Little said the communication between the superintendent and, specifically, the board of education will be a key aspect of his administration.
“Mr. Hines did an effective job of communicating with the board,” he said. “If I’m selected as superintendent, I shall continue that. It would be disastrous for any superintendent to leave the board out of anything. The board must be kept informed.”
Little told board members he felt that, regardless of their decision for superintendent, the Escambia County BOE was the best group of board members he has “had the privilege of working with.”
Little summed up his ideas for the future of Escambia County during Thursday’s interview with a simple phrase.
“Failure is not an option,” he told the board.