Who will lead the BOE next?

Published 12:52 am Monday, April 17, 2006

By By Kerry Whipple-Bean
After five interviews Monday and Tuesday, Escambia County School Board members hope to make a decision on a new superintendent at their April 27 meeting.
Questions about finances, goals and the complexities of the No Child Left Behind law were among the subjects superintendent candidates discussed in public interviews with the board.
Three of the candidates are local, while two are from outside the district.
David Nolin
David Nolin, principal of A.C. Moore Elementary School in Atmore and an educator with 35 years of experience, said his background in coaching would be an asset to the superintendent position.
"I have had a wide range of experience that would help me do the job needed," he said. "I love the kids of Escambia County and just want to see them have the best education."
In response to a question about No Child Left Behind – the federal law that mandates certain performance minimums for schools – Nolin said the program is under-funded across the country.
"In principle, it's an excellent idea," Nolin said. "They had a theory of what they wanted. In practicality, it doesn't work, especially for special education students."
Under NCLB, the test scores of special education students are figured into a school's overall performance, something that normally had not been done in the past. Educators have criticized the practice because special education students learn at a different pace.
Nolin said he would keep an open line of communication with the school board and would plan the budget according to state policy and needs of the district.
Randall K. Little
Randall Little, who has been an educator since 1972 and who is assistant principal at W.S. Neal High School, said one of his main goals as superintendent would be teacher recruitment.
"We can't sit and wait in Escambia County for the teachers to come to us," he said. "We've got to sell our district to these college students."
Little said another of his goals would be to make sure all of the county schools are accredited with the Southeastern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Little also said he doesn't fully agree with all of the NCLB act, but he said he would follow it.
Little also said he would follow state policy in setting the budget, and he said he would seek input on the other areas.
"We know where the bulk of the money's going," he said. "What's left – that's the hard part."
Little said the superintendent should not have the only say in those decisions. "Two heads are better than one, but definitely seven heads are better than one," he said, referring to the school board.
Daniel Shakespeare
Daniel Shakespeare, principal of Andalusia High School, said he would encourage each school to have a building leadership team, made up of educators dedicated to such tasks as recruitment and professional development.
"People on the front line have better knowledge," he said. "It's very important for a superintendent to get input from principals and for principals to get input from teachers."
Shakespeare said NCLB is a good law on the surface but expects schools to be able to "reach into homes" – a difficult task, he said.
Shakespeare said he would encourage board members to take an active role in the budget process.
Larry Collier
Dr. Larry Collier, principal of Brookhaven Middle School, part of the Decatur City Schools, said his nine years of experience as a principal would help him in the position.
Collier said he values a shared approach to leadership, seeking input from principals and faculty.
And Collier said he believes 100 percent accreditation of schools is an important goal for the district.
Collier said No Child Left Behind has the right intent, although all new ideas have shortcomings, he said. And NCLB has helped schools pinpoint problems.
"Averages don't show the problems," he said. "You can pinpoint which kids are failing and how to help them."
No Child Left Behind principles can also help bridge gaps among various subgroups of students, Collier said.
Collier also said he would use a team approach to budgeting, seeking input from faculty, administration and community leaders.
"The superintendent needs to be the driving force behind the budget," he said.
William "Billy" Hines
William Hines, who is administrative assistant to the county superintendent, said he wants to see Escambia County's children "do the best they can do."
Hines said his experience overseeing various aspects of the district – including transportation, staff evaluations and professional development – would help him in the position of superintendent.
Hines called No Child Left Behind "the best of times and the worst of times," noting that it helps keep schools accountable but also expects that same accountability from special education students. He also said he hopes when the program comes up for renewal next year that Congress will fully fund NCLB.
"If they would fund it, that would be great," he said.
Hines would also involve principals and other staff members in planning the budget to make sure nothing is overlooked.
"You surround yourself with good people who know what they're doing," he said.
Hines said he is grateful the county passed an ad valorem tax increase to help pay for county schools.
And Hines said he wants to take advantage of the good situation schools are in now to help pay down debt on the district's two newest schools.
He would allocate an extra 10 percent of oil and gas severance taxes – the district currently saves 40 percent – for the rainy day fund to pay off more debt on those schools.
"I don't like owing money," he said. "I would like to pay off debts as soon as we can."

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