BY KARISSA MILLER
Three months ago Iredell-Statesville Schools Superintendent Brady Johnson and Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Melanie Taylor announced they would be leaving their positions with the district.
The announcements, made during the October 14 school board meeting, came as a surprise to many employees, eliciting tears and heavy sighs from some in the crowd. Taylor will retire on March 1, and Johnson’s last day will be June 30 after the school board declined to offer him a new contract.
The board is conducting a nationwide search for Johnson’s successor. Applications are being accepted through January 31, and the board hopes to hire a new superintendent by July 1.
On Monday, the board held a public hearing to give citizens the opportunity to offer their views on the experience and characteristics they want in their next superintendent.
Approximately 70 community members filled the meeting room at the Career Academy and Technical School for Monday’s meeting, with around 20 or so there to watch their children receive an award later in the meeting.
Each speaker was given three minutes to comment.
Several people talked about the need to hire a visionary leader, someone who puts children first, and who is willing to stay connected with the community.
Bethany Orr, a fourth-grade teacher and I-SS Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020, was among those who offered the board some advice. She read recently there are “noun” leaders and “verb” leaders.
“I-SS needs a verb leader, someone who is active in the community, visible in schools and vocal about how to improve the field of education,” Orr said.
The new superintendent, Orr said, “needs to know that our schools are filled with heroes — teachers who spend endless hours helping children fulfill their potential — and that these heroes need support.”
“The superintendent needs to find ways to provide this support so that these extraordinary folks can stay in the profession and continue to impact the children of I-SS,” she added.
Skip McCall, representing the Statesville Branch NAACP, also attended in support of the next superintendent.
“Partisan politics has no place in this process,” McCall said.
In 2015, when North Carolina legislators voted in the middle of the night to change the I-SS school board from a nonpartisan board to partisan board, “it violated the trust of the board and the people they serve,” he said.
I-SS, McCall said, needs a leader that is student-centered, who offers strategies that are student- driven, and who embraces diversity and inclusion.
“Children don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said.
Cindy Haynes, a former I-SS school board member, commended the board for conducting its own superintendent search.
She then provided input on the selection process.
First, regarding the superintendent’s contract, Haynes said, “all seven of you should know what’s in the contract and review it each year. Be sure that all items are addressed with the superintendent.”
She also encouraged the board to make the new superintendent accountable for the district’s financial well-being.
“Compare the fund balance a decade ago to what it is today. Perhaps question the superintendent applicants where he or she would have the fund balance at the end of his or her contract date,” Haynes suggested.
Lastly, she encouraged the board to hire “a superintendent who will respect the board and their decisions or directives.”
Kevin Johnson thanked the board for conducting a far and wide search for the next superintendent, but also asked the board not to rule out in-house candidates.
He asked if it would be appropriate to give a name of a candidate that he supports, but school board attorney Costi Kutteh advised him that it would be best not to do so during the public hearing.
Superintendent Search Survey
To provide input, visit I-SS website at www.issnc.org and take the superintendent survey. The survey will close the week of January 24.