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Candidates vying for director spot answer questions from school board

By COLLIN BROOKS

The Washington County Board of Education will meet for a special session on Tuesday, March 29, in order to deliberate on the five candidates for the Washington County Director of Schools position that will open when current director Ron Dykes retires on June 30.
The five candidates interviewed for the position last week, with each of them receiving his or her own day with multiple interviews conducted by teachers, commissioners and, finally, the school board.
The board could reach a decision during the special meeting, or board members may wait until the regularly called meeting on April 7. If a female is elected as Washington County Director of Schools, she will be the first woman to hold the title.
Due to space constraints, we picked one of the questions that was given to each candidates and provided the response.
What will you do to create an atmosphere in the schools that will lead to educational excellence?

Thursday, March 17
Mrs. Kimber Halliburton
Halliburton is currently the lead principal for the Metro Nashville Metro Public School System, where she oversees six schools in her assigned network. In 2014, she also became the principal of Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville.
“It’s all about the culture of the building, what is happening in each classroom,” Halliburton said. “One of the things that I haven’t talked about a lot, we have talked about morale and how to build people up. But I have a high level of expectations. I am a perfectionist; you need to know that going in. I have a great job and I want this job, but I do have a great job to go back to. So I have nothing to lose. I think I need to let you know who I am. I expect a great deal from my teachers, but they adore me, I promise you that they do. They enjoy working for me. They know I am going to bend over backwards to get whatever they need, if they express it. So I think that you just create that culture of ‘I love you, but here are the expectations and we have to get there.’ So just a high level of expectations and where we want our students to be at the end of the day.”

Wednesday, March 16
Dr. Ginger Christian
A product of the Washington County system, Dr. Christian currently serves as RTI Curriculum supervisor and professional development coordinator for secondary education for the Washington County Department of Education. Her answer to the question was as follows:
“I would like to share my vision with you, that I have for the system, to answer this question. We have to create a culture of excellence for our teachers where our teachers are inspired to teach,” Christian said. “I believe that we can do that, that we have we have a strong and effective foundation in Washington County Schools to build on.
“Leadership, literacy and learning. Leadership is critical, support to our school level leaders, support with teacher leaders and student leadership. I talked about the EPIC Ambassador program. But I would encourage our school leaders to see our student leaders leading in multiple capacities. That they help us make decisions at the school level and at times, if we want information from them at the district level. Their opinions and thoughts are powerful and they should help guide our practice. We model for students what we want to see them become, so that leadership piece is critical. Working in collaboration with the board of ed, of course, working in collaboration with our commission. Working in collaboration with businesses, grants and possibilities, all of that is encompassed in leadership.
Literacy. Literacy is critical to the development of our student. This vision of diploma-plus,that our students will graduate and have either industry certification or dual enrollment or AP. That can only occur if our students are literate. Technical reading is difficult . . . So that piece is critical.
And learning. The way we do that is we continue to learn together. We look at the research. We look at our data. We make decisions that are best. Our budget, our goals and objectives align to what we believe is best for our students. So every decision is student centered . . . ”

Tuesday March 15.
Dr. Tammy Larkey-Pearce
Another product of a local school system, Larkey-Pearce currently serves as the principal for Liberty Bell Middle School in Johnson City.
“High expectations of everyone, every person, every student, a collaborative environment. Again, I think that elementary schools need to have a common language, a common thread so we are all on the same page,” Larkey-Pearce said. “Provide training and resources. If I ask them do something, they’ll have the training and the resources that they need to do it. As far as teachers and principals, principals are key. They need to be able to be in the hiring process with their own teachers, because they know their needs. Data driven. When I took over Liberty Bell, those teachers had not even seen their data. They had no idea where they were and when I showed it to them, it was eye opening. And I know that you can manipulate data, if you’re against something you can pull out some negative pieces and say this isn’t the right thing because…But education, that is why we have a three-year average. One year, you may have a bad year, but three years in a row, you’re ineffective. (I’d have) teacher leaders leading the staff, showing what they’ve learned during from their workshops. Being positive and not accepting mediocrity. If we are good, than we are going to be great. To me, good is a minimal; I want to be a great school system.
“Showcasing the programs, showcasing the people, showcasing the students, making them be proud of their system. Again, I played for Pat Summitt and I learned more about life, playing for her than I did about basketball. You push and you push and you push and once you are done than you keep doing more.
“And one of the things that my teachers hear me say all the time are that excuses are not tolerated and laziness is not accepted. I want to roll my sleeves up and I want to do everything that I can to make sure that we are a great school system . . .”

Monday, March 14
Dr. Dixie Bowen
Bowen currently serves as the Supervisor of Elementary Education and Supervisor of Student Services for the Bristol City Schools Systems.
“Let our mission be known, make sure that we are all singing the same song and that we are happy to sing it,” Bowen said. “It’s like I referred to earlier, we have such limited time with students, that that time needs to be good, quality time. I told a group of teachers earlier, they asked ‘what was an effective school?’ And it’s a happy school. Kid’s need to want to come to school. And if they always don’t want to come to school, then there is something up. I think making sure that we all have a culture of excellence and that in a flat minute, we can tell anyone about our students and what we believe in. That is what I would strive to do immediately.”

Friday, March 11
Dr. William Flanary
Flanary has worked for the Washington County school system since 1997 and currently serves as the Washington County Assistant Director of Schools. He answered the question as follows:
“I believe in General George Patton’s method of leadership,” Flanary said.  “I think this is my last question, unless there is follow-up. You surround yourself with the very best people you can find. You give them a real clear idea of where you want to be as an organization. You provide them with the very best resources that you can muster and then you get out of their way and let them do the job that they were hired to do. That is my vision of leadership.”