Since Wednesday’s meeting was a work session, the board was not able to take formal action. They will vote on both proposals during their regular board meeting Monday night. Although the final vote could not be taken, the board will contact AASB with some amendments to the standard contract Thursday morning.
The board had previously agreed to conduct a statewide search to replace Superintendent Doug Campbell, who is retiring at the end of the current school year. The statewide search would cost $6,000. A national search would cost twice that, but would also include organization of a community-wide meeting and a survey as part of the search process. City Manager Brian Muenger said he was approached by representatives of the bank and the hospital about providing the balance necessary for a national search.
Board chairwoman Shirley Simmons-Sims was out of the country when the council agreed to cut the board a check. She said Wednesday that, while she did not object to the additional funds, she wished she had been informed of the donations before reading about them in the newspaper.
“Sometimes we are given a second opportunity to do things better, and to involve the community more,” she said Wednesday. “We are often criticized, individually and collectively, for not bonding, but now we definitely are. We will do a national search, but we will decide collectively. It doesn’t mean that people other than us will decide, we will be the bottom line. We know what we need in Talladega, and we know what makes Talladega unique. We are the five who will set the criteria and decide.”
Board member Bonnie Miller said the outside offers had also been news to her at the time, but did not object to conducting a national search. She did point out that, if there were out of state finalists, the board would incur some expense putting them up in town and feeding them.
Board member James Braswell said Muenger notified him of the offer when he could not reach Simmons-Sims. Braswell attempted to contact AASB, but his call was not returned until the next day.
Simmons-Sims said “We can and we will do better, work together and keep each other informed, not reading things in the paper the next day.
Board member Elizabeth Smith agreed, saying “This is a wonderful offer. $6,000 is unprecedented. But I would have liked to have been consulted first.”
Board member Juanita Curry McClellan, who will be the chairwoman for most of the time the search is ongoing, said “this really lets us know the city is concerned about the education system. We have not had great communications as a whole with the city, but we’re moving on ahead. We have made contact with other stake-holders, but we don’t exist without the city of Talladega. If a national search is what the citizens want, we should embrace that.”
McClellan went on to say “We don’t need to be focusing on the wrong thing. We want to find the best possible superintendent. The state issues will still be there, but we want to make sure we find the best fit. I’m encouraged by these agencies coming to us and saying ‘we’re in.’ We need to get all the stake-holders in, if it is up to we five to decide.”
Although the board will be entering into what is largely AASB’s standard contract, there will be some modifications. Brasswell said he had already gotten an agreement to waive a $2,000 fee for additional advertising, and the board agreed that they would like to be able to see a list of applicants and their hometowns as well as the five finalists for the job.
Braswell said he also wanted language added that might give extra weight to applicants with connections to Alabama.
As in previous searches, the board members agreed that each of them would pick up one of the finalists and give him or her a tour of the city and all the city schools. No decision was made on where the finalists might stay.
During the same meeting, Campbell also said that the state would be supplying a chief financial officer starting next week until that position had been permanently filled.