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Ready to retire: BOE searches for next director

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

After three years as the Washington County Director of Schools and 36 within the school system, Bill Flanary is now set to ride off into the sunset of retirement this June.

Flanary announced his retirement at the Jan. 14 Washington County Board of Education meeting after telling board members the news at a retreat back in November. 

Flanary told the Herald & Tribune he knew he wanted to finish out his contract when he signed in 2018, but that he had no desire to sit in the director’s chair for longer than that.

“Everybody has to retire eventually,” Flanary said. “I knew when I signed the contract that would finish me up. And I said at the time, ‘I’ll finish out that contract and that will be it for me.’

“Thirty nine years is a long time. I felt like it was just a really good time to go. The closer I get, the better I feel about it.”

After hearing the news in November, the school board contracted the Tennessee School Boards Association to conduct a candidate search. The board opted for the $6,500 search plan which includes TSBA’s services to screen candidates and present the top three to five candidates to the BOE. From there, the school board can interview the candidates and suggest others not included on the TSBA’s suggested list.

“We have 17 applicants at least,” BOE Chairman Jason Day said. “TSBA is narrowing down the top five. At the end of February, we are going to interview the top candidates. We hope to make a selection by March. Dr. Flanary will finish his term, and come July, we’ll have a new superintendent.”

In 2000, the State of Tennessee began requiring that all school districts hire a director of schools instead of having the superintendent appointed through local elections. The Washington County BOE has used TSBA to find past superintendents such as Ron Dykes and Kimber Halliburton. When Flanary was named director in 2018, the board did not opt to utilize TSBA’s director search services. He was, however, given an interview in 2016 in addition to the candidates TSBA selected for the board.

Before Flanary leaves his post, he said he has a number of goals he’d like to check off. Getting students back to in-person learning and helping the central office adjust to a new director all make the list, but at the top is attending a groundbreaking for the long-awaited Jonesborough K-8 School.

“The Jonesborough School plan is about 95 percent done,” Flanary said. “(The Town of Jonesborough’s) architects have put together a really beautiful school on paper. I would love to attend a groundbreaking before I step out. That’s a goal.”

Flanary said he looks forward to spending time with family and participating in usual retirement activities such as fishing, reading and doing as little as possible for as long as he, and his wife, can stand it.

“I’m a big gardener and I love to read, you know, the usual things,” Flanary said. “I’m also a scuba diver and this is going to give me an opportunity to do some traveling and do some more diving. My retirement won’t be different from anybody else’s. I plan to enjoy it.”

As the board prepares to welcome a new director, Day said he and other board members recognize the work Flanary has put in over the past three decades in Washington County.

“We really appreciate Dr. Flanary stepping in and all he’s done for the system and all his years of service,” Day said. “I think everybody would agree with that. All the great things he’s done for many, many years for Washington County. We commend him for that for sure.”

Day said he felt the next director needs to be someone with plans to take the school system to a “new level” within the region.

“I think they’re looking for somebody who’s a visionary, energetic, a very good communicator with our funding body and local authorities,” Day said. “Somebody who will really look out for the students obviously and the staff. Somebody who can really take Washington County to a new level and be competitive from an education standpoint with everyone else in the area.”

The TSBA-selected candidates are set to be announced at the Feb. 4 BOE meeting set for 5:30 p.m. To livestream the meeting, go to wcde.org or https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDnmnXQAmOV6q16q0xrEpPA.