Rutherford School Board could hire principal Monday after 3 interviews

  • The jury spent 6 hours interviewing 3 finalists
  • Andrea Anthony: “All students can learn”
  • James Sullivan: “Data is essential for improvement”
  • John Ash: “Reading is central to all other subjects”

Rutherford County School Board may hire new principal to replace Bill Spurlock Monday after interviewing three finalists on Thursday.

Board Vice-Chair Shelia Bratton sought approval to meet at 3 p.m. Monday “to vote on the next Principal of Schools.”

The Rutherford County School Board voted 6 to 1 for the special meeting being called, with only Tammy Sharp opposing an event to be held at the district administration building in Murfreesboro.

Sharp said the public should be given more time to review the more than six hours of interviews with the finalists on video recorded by the Rutherford County government. RCTV and available via YouTube.

The board will consider choosing a director after listen to answers to interview questions among the three finalists:

What 3 finalists are bragging about in the applications:Verification of qualifications of finalists for Rutherford County Senior Educator position

If a majority of the seven school board members agree on a finalist, the successful candidate will be offered a contract starting July 1.

The board could also decide to continue the search and appoint an interim director to replace Spurlock. Sharp favors this approach and wants to continue the research in September after three new council members will be elected on August 4th.

Although school board members praised Spurlock for student academic achievement since becoming principal in 2018, they were criticism of his communication in their performance evaluation.

Spurlock has agreed to step down a year earlier on June 30. The board agreed to provide Spurlock with his annual salary of $166,633 for another year, along with benefits that push the total cost to $205,464according to Rutherford County Department of Finance records.

The board also increased the negotiable salary range for the next director from $200,000 to $225,000.

What the finalists say about themselves:Verification of qualifications of finalists for Rutherford County Senior Educator position

Finalists answer questions about academics and the program

Some of the council’s questions related to academics and curriculum, which most parents in a recent district survey ranked as the top priority.

The three finalists drew lots to determine the order of the interviews. Anthony went first, followed by Sullivan and then Ash.

Anthony: “All students can learn”

Andrea Antoine

Anthony mentioned how proud she was as the former executive director of Williamson County Schools (2003-2015) at Page High, which she says went from a target (substandard) public school to a winner of the National Blue Ribbon School in 2011.

Anthony, who was part of Rutherford County Schools central office staff since 2015said she wants the district to look at what educators in the district can do to take students to the next level by strengthening instruction.

“All students can learn,” Anthony said, adding that it’s important to “put students first.”

A former Riverdale High student, teacher, and vice-principal, Anthony mentioned the importance of providing teacher training and allocating more time for lessons and grading.

“They want to see these students succeed,” Anthony said, adding that district leaders need to make sure teachers are “heard and respected.”

Anthony also wants more communication with parents about the program and instruction to let them know what is mandated by the state and the district’s efforts to meet the goals.

“Everyone has the same goal,” Anthony said. “We (have) all the same passion for the success of our students.”

Who applied:Meet the 7 Candidates to Run for Next Superintendent of Rutherford County Schools

Sullivan: “Data is essential for improvement”

James Sullivan

Sullivan mentioned being part of building a strong culture when he was the founding principal of Rocky Fork Middle in 2017. He accepted Spurlock’s promotion in 2019 to become assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

“Data is critical for improvement,” Sullivan said. “We need to know where our students are to improve.”

Schools in Rutherford County are in the top quadrant of the state for standardized testing, especially for student academic growth, Sullivan said.

“There’s always room for improvement,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also shared how he and other district officials had to adjust to the start of the 2020-21 school year during the pandemic after learning how difficult it was for teachers to provide distance and traditional in-person education the same time. The district changed the approach a month into the school year.

“I apologized” to teachers and education officials for the initial approach of distance and traditional education at the same time, Sullivan recalled.

“People will be on our side as long as you tell them the truth,” Sullivan said. “People appreciate transparency.”

“A different school”:What worked, what’s next for students at Rutherford, Murfreesboro

Ash: “Reading is central to all other subjects”

John Ash

The principal of Central Magnet has touted his school’s performance in serving high achievers and has been recognized, including being ranked 7th best in the country by US News & World Report.

“Central was obviously a success,” Ash said, adding that recent Central graduates had an average ACT score of 30.5 and earned $11 million in college scholarships.

Ash, however, expressed concern that the district overall only had a pass rate of 34.7% of students pass on state standardized exams in 2021, according to the Tennessee Department of Education.

“We have to raise our children,” Ash said. “They deserve it.”

Ash said the pass rate is not acceptable for a district expected to enroll more than 50,000 students next year. He said there was a need to improve the education of every child.

Ash said he particularly wants to see literacy rates increase for third graders, as they should be able to read to understand.

“Reading is central to all other subjects, including math,” Ash said. “It is vital.”

Three finalists for Rutherford County Schools superintendent, James Sullivan, left, Andre Anthony, center, and John Ash, right, mingle on Thursday (May 19, 2022) before each interview with the Board of Education.

Contact journalist Scott Broden with news tips or questions by emailing him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ScottBroden.

Meeting to choose the director

The Rutherford County School Board will consider voting on the next superintendent of schools at a meeting Monday at 3 p.m. at the District Administration Building, 2240 Southpark Drive in Murfreesboro.

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