By MARINA WATERS
The Washington County Board of Education has recently spent a lot of time getting to know its candidates for the role of director of schools.
The BOE conducted three of its five public interviews with the candidates by the Herald & Tribune press time. The Tuesday, Feb. 23, interview with Jarrod Adams as well as the final candidate interview to be held today at 5 p.m. with Jerry Boyd, will be mentioned in next week’s edition.
Greg Slate, the current senior director of secondary schools and administration with the Rockingham County School System in Eden, North Carolina, was the first candidate interview on Wednesday Feb. 17. Each candidate is asked the same questions ranging from maintaining morale within schools and personnel to working on the school system’s budget.
Slate said he felt a key in school systems right now is helping “lift up” each student now that many schools have returned to in-person learning.
“I think it’s critical we lead with kindness and empathy in the schoolhouse to help make sure the schools are pulling out of this pandemic effectively,” Slate said. “It’s really difficult lately. We’re in silos. We feel isolated oftentimes in the pandemic and I think it’s imperative that we listen and we help lift up our students and our teachers. That level of support has to be consistent.”
Slate also said he realized he is the only out-of-state candidate, but his focus on relationship building would serve him well if named the director of schools.
“I’m not from Tennessee,” Slate said. “I know that coming into this. But knowing that, I’m a quick study. I’m a quick learner and by building those relationships, I can get to know what we need to do and who we need to build with and who we need to partner with pretty quick.”
On Thursday, the board heard from Andy Hare, the current head principal at Sullivan East High School in Blountville.
Hare said he believes communication is key and is an aspect he currently focuses on in his current role.
“Communication is paramount,” Hare said. “One of the things I’ve done is made a commitment to communication. We are returning phone calls. We are returning emails. No matter how tough it may be, we’re doing it. What you find out is, once you do it, it’s not that bad. People just need to be heard. People want to know that you’re listening. We’ve made that a commitment everywhere I’ve been.”
Hare was also the principal at David Crockett High School from 2011-2015. One project he said he felt created a positive environment was Crockett’s “Drive To Five” initiative which focused on earning a level five status for the school.
“I wanted those kids at Crockett to know that they’re good enough,” Hare said. “I didn’t want them to believe they weren’t capable of things. They could achieve anything they put their minds to. Being a level five school is something they could do. We had a pep rally, t-shirts …
“We missed the mark that year and became a level four school, but they’re a level five school now. I would like to believe that that type of an activity is what drove it to get to that point.”
On Friday, the board heard from Keevin Woody, the Assistant Director of Schools for Roane County Schools in Kingston, Tennessee.
Woody said he felt relationship building would be key to his relationship with stakeholders, staff and families alike.
“I want to continue to cultivate relationships,” Woody said. “I want to cultivate those across the schools, across the district as well as across the community. If I come here, relationships are going to be the key if we are going to move forward. We’ve got to build those relationships with you, with our county commission as well as our staff and our students and their families.
He also said he felt it was important to stay up to date on information and make sure the board is well informed by the director of schools or the “advisor” to the BOE.
“It would be important I present you with high-quality information to make informed decisions,” Woody said. “As an advisor, if you’re going to make a decision, it’s very important you know what you’re going to make a decision on.”
Next, the BOE will choose a top two of the five candidates for a potential second round of interviews. The school board’s next scheduled meeting is set for Monday, March 1. To livestream the BOE meetings, go to wcde.org or go to https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDnmnXQAmOV6q16q0xrEpPA.