By Paul Thompson
In a surprise move, the Hickman Mills C-1 school board announced last Thursday that former Grandview assistant superintendent Barbara Tate will be replacing interim superintendent Everlyn Williams for the remainder of the 2012-2013 school year under the title of acting superintendent.
The move is effective immediately. A final decision was made in a closed session that conspicuously dragged past the scheduled 7 p.m. start time for the October 18 regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting. The majority of the board voted to approve Tate as acting superintendent, although the decision was not unanimous. Board President Breman Anderson Jr. made the announcement in a brief statement.
“We have a new acting superintendent, her name is Barbara Tate, and she’ll be taking over for the rest of the school year,” said Anderson at the beginning of the meeting.
Williams’ turn as interim superintendent had been plagued with issues since the outset. In September of 2011, outgoing superintendent Dr. Marge Williams recommended to the C-1 board of education that Everlyn Williams be promoted to deputy superintendent, the idea being that she could learn under Dr. Williams before taking over as interim superintendent for the 2012-2013 school year. The board voted 5-2 to make that recommendation a reality, but without first compiling a superintendent search committee, there was some concern that they had violated board policy.
After a July 2012 retreat, the board announced their intentions to proceed with a national superintendent search over the subsequent months, with the intention of hiring a permanent superintendent to take over the C-1 district by July 1, 2013. At the time, Everlyn Williams was still expected to shepherd the district until the permanent superintendent took over.
But when the district met just 7 of 14 standards in their Annual Performance Review (APR) released in August, and Hickman Mills received only “partial accreditation” from the state for the first time, the plans for Everlyn Williams wavered.
“I’d say maybe a little over a month ago, we were looking for someone when we went to provisional accreditation,” said Anderson last Friday. “We had been looking around for some leadership to take over while the (superintendent) search was underway. We as the board kind of felt as though the leadership, the experience, and the drive were just not there.”
Anderson indicated that some within the district held out hope that Hickman Mills could still receive full accreditation despite the disappointing standardized test results. When that didn’t happen, and when the board did not receive a sufficient explanation of what the administration was doing to curb academic issues within the district, they felt that a change must be made.
There were some major controversies with personnel and student achievement,” continued Anderson without getting into specifics. “Our hands were tied, and we had to move in a different direction. Accreditation and student achievement is the ultimate goal of the district.”
Board member Dan Osman acknowledged he was surprised by the swift action to name Tate as acting superintendent.
“I had not been told that this would officially occur until I arrived at the board meeting,” said Osman early this week. “I assume there had been some prior discussion beforehand.”
Nonetheless, Osman felt that Everlyn Williams had failed to sufficiently appraise the Board of Education of steps being taken to assure an increase in student achievement for the 2012-2013 school year.
“There were a number of board members that wanted, for several months, to have an update of what’s been going on with the school district,” said Osman. “I can’t fix a problem that I can’t fully understand. We’d been looking for that presentation for a while, and it never occurred.”
As board expectations were not met, the leadership began to look at alternatives. Over the past couple of weeks, Anderson and the board put together a short list of potential interim replacements for Williams. Eventually the board homed in on Tate, the former Grandview C-4 administrator and Hickman Mills principal from 1990-1992.
“Ms. Tate has a history of accomplishments, and she has an excellent rapport with DESE,” said Anderson of Tate’s credentials. “Her name just really rose to the top.”
With Tate taking on the role of acting superintendent, Williams has now been reassigned to Baptiste Elementary to fulfill yet-to-be determined responsibilities. She will not be facing a pay cut in her new position.
“At this point and time she is still an employee of the district,” said Anderson, adding that “Her duties have not been determined.”
Although Tate was enjoying her retirement, she simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work for the Hickman Mills District again.
“One of the things was the fact that I worked at Hickman Mills previously,” said Tate of her new position. “I thought at some point I might do some consulting, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. It’s not a full-time position, so that was also a big factor.”
Tate is referring to the tight limit she will have on the hours she can work within the district this year. In order to keep receiving her pension from the Grandview School District, Tate will have a strict 550 hour workload limit in her role as acting superintendent.
“I’m going to make my schedule; I can work 550 hours through the end of June,” confirmed Tate. “I’ll be working with the board and the cabinet on how to do that as well.”
As of last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, Tate has been jumping into her new role with both feet. She says she is excited to be a part of reform efforts within the district she once called home. Tate was meeting with staff as early as Friday, and is committed to getting to the bottom of the C-1 district’s lagging academic achievement figures.
“It’s really important to talk to teachers, principals and parents’ groups,” said Tate last Friday. “But the biggie is the achievement data. The people want to change; they want to increase student achievement. That’s not unusual for the district. They’ve always been committed.”
As part of her duties, Tate will also be assisting in the search for a permanent superintendent. Tate has said she is not considering taking on the position on a permanent basis, and school board members have concurred that Tate is not currently a candidate. As such, the board is currently proceeding with plans to interview potential superintendents in the first week of November.
“This is an acting role for the remainder of the school year,” affirmed Anderson. “There are no plans to bring her in as a permanent superintendent. The board has agreed to bring in some candidates, and we will be interviewing them next month.”
I’m really excited about working with the board and getting a new superintendent,” added Tate.