Nashville School Board Divided Over All-Male Finalists For Superintendent Job | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville School Board Divided Over All-Male Finalists For Superintendent Job

May 5, 2016

Updated 10 a.m. Friday:

The Metro school board has narrowed its list of superintendent candidates down to three. They met Friday morning after 10 hours of back-to-back interviews on Thursday.

Jesus Jara is the deputy superintendent in Orlando. Allen Smith is chief of schools in Oakland. And Shawn Joseph is deputy superintendent for Prince George’s County, Maryland.

The Metro school board was split on whether to invite Kenneth Zeff back for a second look. During the interview, he was one of the most vocal advocates for charter schools. He’s the interim head of Fulton County schools in Atlanta.

Joel Boyd from Santa Fe took himself out of the running before the board met Friday morning.

The school board was not unanimous in narrowing the list. They voted 7-2. And there was even more dissention Thursday night.

Originally reported:

The Nashville school board interviewed all six finalists for the district’s top position on a single day. But the panel ended the marathon session on a note of dissatisfaction.

After hearing from six superintendent hopefuls, back-to-back, board member Amy Frogge proposed scheduling a last-minute interview with a seventh candidate. She noted that the search firm only offered men for consideration.

"My concern is that we have a search firm that is making the board’s decision for us, and I don’t think that’s right for our city," Frogge said. "We’re elected and we represent the people who are now speaking up about the lack of a female on the slate and the lack of experience on the slate."

Frogge suggested consideration of Carol Johnson, who led school districts in Memphis, Minneapolis, and Boston before her retirement in 2013. Since then, Johnson has served as a visiting professor at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education.

But Frogge’s Hail Mary failed on a 6-3 vote. Still, school board chair Sharon Gentry was irate, saying the mere suggestion was unfair to the finalists.

"That’s the only reason why we’d make a change, if it’s about a specific person," said Gentry. "Because if we do that — I will be morbidly surprised if a significant number of the people on this list [don't] decide they don’t want to participate."

Gentry says she doesn’t understand how the school board continues to shoot itself in the foot. This superintendent search has dragged on for more than a year.

Despite the drama, the board is still trying to make a final decision by next Friday.