The Anniston Board of Education on Wednesday approved a new salary range for the next superintendent it hires, dropping at least $6,000 from the last superintendent’s pay, and defined its qualification requirements.
The board started a search last month to replace former Superintendent Darren Douthitt, who resigned in January, enlisting the help of the Alabama Association of School Boards to compile information from the community and educators to help in that search. Linda Ingram, a search consultant with the association, held six meetings last week for various groups of stakeholders in the school system.
On Wednesday, the board voted to offer a salary range from $122,000 to $132,000, a cut from Douthitt’s salary of $138,633, according to state Department of Education documents detailing salaries for fiscal year 2019.
Ingram provided a list of school systems of comparable enrollment size in the state and their salaries based on those same documents. Tallassee was the low end of the nine city school systems she listed, with a salary of $123,369 per year; the highest was Pike Road City Schools, at $179,375, though Ingram noted that system serves an area in Montgomery with higher average incomes. Five of the cities fell within the new salary range chosen by the board, while the other four were all above it.
The board also decided to stick with job qualifications as defined by Alabama law. Ingram advised board members that nothing could be taken from the list of requirements, but additions could be made. She advised leaving the requirements untouched to allow a wider range of applicants.
Those requirements include “general fitness and character,” knowledge of school administration, appropriate certifications for the position and at least a master’s degree. Prior experience as a superintendent isn’t required.
Advertising would begin Thursday, Ingram explained, with a deadline for applications on March 18 and interviews with the school board from April 8-12. The new superintendent should be ready to start June 1, according to an ad for the position.
Ingram delivered the results of a survey open to Anniston residents, though she admitted those results were underwhelming: Only 78 people responded to the survey, which was open until last week. School systems of Anniston’s size usually return between 200 and 300 surveys, she said. The community meetings were also lightly attended, with 28 people present during the five meetings, two of which were for parents and the community, with one each for administrators, public officials and support staff.
In spite of the numbers, she explained, the people who participated in the meetings and survey seemed to have a consistent vision of the next superintendent.
The wish-list includes the ability to bring together the community, to make decisions and stand by them and to provide a clear picture of where money comes from and how it’s spent. Respondents to the survey were asked to pick the most important challenge facing the system. The number one choice was improving academic achievement at 27 percent of total responses, and stabilizing system finances followed it at 20 percent. Raising academic standards, which arguably overlaps with academic achievement, ranked third, with 15 percent of those surveyed choosing it as most important.
Board members said the information provided them with a clear picture of what they and the community want in a new leader.
“I think we’re in an excellent position,” said Joan Frazier, board member and a former superintendent, “and having been on the other side of this I can honestly say this is extremely detailed and thorough.”