The top four candidates for the position of McMinn County Director of Schools were announced by the McMinn County Schools Board of Education at a workshop Thursday evening.

The position was opened after Director of McMinn County Schools Mickey Blevins announced his retirement back in June, which will be effective Dec. 31. The new Director of Schools will begin Jan. 1, 2019.

Nine applicants applied for the position and, after reviewing the applications, each member of the McMinn County Schools Board of Education numerically ranked all candidates from several different categories.

Then, at the Board workshop, after discussion about how many candidates should be interviewed for the opportunity to be the new director of schools, the Board of Education decided to interview the top four candidates that received the highest rankings.

The four candidates, in alphabetical order, that will be granted interviews for director of schools (DOS) are McMinn County Schools Early Education Supervisor Melasawn Knight, McMinn County Schools Student Management Supervisor Lee Parkison, Angela Phipps of Sweetwater, and Christopher Smallen of Lenoir City.

Chairman Sharon Brown commented on the scope of the responsibility for DOS, as well as the Board for making the decision.

“We know, in general, what those responsibilities are … but when you look at 5,600 children, $41 million budget — quite a demanding job,” said Brown. “I don’t have to tell you how demanding our job is for the next few weeks to choose the next best person to come in to be the leader of McMinn County Schools System.”

Brown questioned fellow Board Members about how many candidates they would like to interview for the position of DOS.

“I’d like to see the top three interviewed, because there is a difference between those three and the rest,” said Board Member Donna Cagle.

Newly elected Board Member Billy Manis stated that he would like to see the top four interviewed.

Board Members Mike Cochran and Rob Shamblin asked if the Board would go back to any other candidates if they were not impressed by the top candidates that are interviewed.

The general consensus was that if this were the case, the Board would look again at the other applicants and choose to interview them.

“We’re going to have to come to an agreement about this because we can’t vote on it, because we’re in a workshop,” said Brown.

Shamblin stated that he was fine with either three or four final candidates.

“The gap between (candidates) two and three and three and four are the same, numerically,” he said. “Now, the sum total is different, but at a minimum, three, but I’m comfortable with four. I think at this point, we probably ought to look at as many as we think are qualified.”

After more discussion, the Board came to a consensus to move forward with the top four candidates.

“Obviously, we want to take advantage of every candidate information that we can,” said Brown.

Thus, moving forward, the top four candidates — Knight, Parkinson, Phipps, and Smallen — will be offered the chance to interview for the position with the Board on Monday, Sept. 17. The candidates will be interviewed alphabetically.

The one hour interview process for each individual candidate will go as follows: the Chair will briefly explain the process to the applicant, the candidate will give a five minute statement, Board Members will ask questions for 50 minutes, time permitting, additional questions may be asked upon recognition by the Chairman, and the candidate will offer a closing statement.

After all the interviews are completed, the next step in the process, if all Board members are in agreement, will be to make the selection of the new DOS.

This would occur immediately prior to the Board’s Sept. 20 meeting at 4 p.m.

The Board will finalize the contract with the new DOS, Board Chairman, and Board Attorney, and the contract and approved hiring will be announced by the Board either at the October meeting or at a called meeting.

Among the other discussions at the workshop, qualifications for the DOS were discussed, and some comments were made about why two candidates did not move forward in the selection process.

Brown read the qualifications for the McMinn County Schools DOS, which are as follows: a professional educator’s license, a master’s degree in education with a preference for a doctorate degree, three years of successful experience in school administration, and such other qualifications that the Board deems desirable.

Brown stated that all candidates who applied met these qualifications, except one, who did not fully complete the application.

Numerical rankings of all candidates, as well as the interview questions for DOS, are being kept confidential by the Board.

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