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MCS school board delays superintendent interviews until May

MADISON – Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order effective April 4-30 prompted Madison Board of Education to reschedule interviews with four finalists for Superintendent of Madison City Schools.

Originally, the board had slated two interviews each on April 7 and 8. “The board … moved up the timetable for interviews in hopes we could conduct them live but at a safe distance with each finalist while streaming the interviews to the public,” board president Ranae Bartlett said.

Finalists for the position are Bob Jones High School Principal Sylvia Lambert, James Clemens High Principal Brian Clayton, former Decatur City Schools Superintendent Ed Nichols and Hazelwood, Missouri, Deputy Superintendent Natasha Baker.

Former Madison Superintendent Robby Parker announced his retirement Jan. 9 and his last day on the job was Feb. 28. Assistant Superintendent Eric Terrell was appointed interim superintendent.

The school board had expected to hire a new superintendent by April 30 before the stay-at-home order was issued.

“For the health and safety of all involved in the interview process, we have decided to postpone the interviews to May — or once the stay-at-home order is lifted or modified — and conditions are safe for all of us to participate in the same room,” Bartlett said. “The board feels that the optimum interview conditions allow the finalists to sit face-to-face with the board as they answer questions.”

During the state of emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic, Madison Board of Education meetings will continue as live-streamed broadcasts.

Woody Sanderson, an attorney with the law firm Lanier Ford of Huntsville, which is handling the superintendent search, said 16 applications were received for the job that has a starting annual salary of about $180,000.

“I assisted the board with the screening process,” Sanderson said. “With the coronavirus concerns, there is a different wrinkle in the process. We were hoping to have it filled by June.” He said he expects the position to be filled by August at the latest.

At its March 26 meeting, the board passed a resolution that authorizes Interim Superintendent Eric Terrell “to take any action he deems appropriate and necessary to operate the system without prior board approval during the state of emergency,” Bartlett said. “Any such actions he takes will be communicated to the board in writing as soon as practical, preferably in advance of such action when feasible, and shall be reported to the public at the next scheduled board meeting.”

This resolution includes suspension of policies, waiving bid requirements, assigning staff, and designating essential employees who must report to work.

“Mr. Terrell and his staff have been working around the clock to help prepare us as we return to online learning (on April 6). Many of our essential staff members did not have much of a Spring Break last week as they continued to work to help us in areas, such as technology, instruction, student services, safety and security, personnel, finance, maintenance, transportation, special education, English language learners and child nutrition, just to name a few.”

Bartlett emphasized the board’s appreciation of MCS employees’ dedication during “these unprecedented times. Each week, the ground has shifted beneath us, and you have responded to each new executive order, directive or piece of guidance from the State Department of Education as the professionals you are.”

“You are the best of the best, and we believe in you,” Bartlett told MCS employees in a district-wide email.

Bartlett, like hundreds of parents, regrets that graduating seniors will not experience the traditions of their last semester. “These seniors are probably more resilient than their parents. I feel confident that our school system will find a way to provide the Class of 2020 as many of the experiences and moments of recognition they deserve,” she said.

(“The Madison Record” will begin highlighting area high school seniors in each issue. For information, visit themadisonrecord.com.)

The school board also approved a bid for construction of MidTown Elementary School on Wall Triana. The school is scheduled to open for the 2021-2022 school year. Other construction and renovation projects will continue during the school closure.

Starting April 6, MCS initiated online learning to help students to master critical standards in their classes. Teachers are assisting students with advanced-placement exams and in building skills.

“This (scenario) is new for everyone. We’ll experience some bumps in the road. We will learn from this and learn from each other and become an even better school system,” Bartlett said.

“On behalf of the board of education, thank you again to our entire Madison City Schools family and our Interim Superintendent Mr. Eric Terrell. We are praying for guidance and your health and safety at this time,” Bartlett said.

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