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April 15, 2024

Board of Education begins superintendent search

By ANGELA FARR KING

In the last monthly Alexander County Board of Education meeting, the board voted to employ the Masonboro Group as a firm to assist in the search for a new Superintendent of Schools, following Dr. Jennifer Hefner’s announcement that she will be retiring effective July 1. The Masonboro Group estimated the costs for their services to be $18,500. They were chosen in a vote among school board members that was 4-3.

The school board met in a public work session with two representatives from the Masonboro Group on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, at 6 p.m. Board Vice Chairman Matthew Reese opened the meeting and then turned it over to Dr. Eddie West and Mr. Jim Watson from the Masonboro Group. They say they have been in the “Superintendent Search” business for approximately 30 years and can account for 16 successful searches in the past 10 years.

The purpose of the work session was to solicit ideas from the school board members as to what they believe the top five attributes in a new superintendent should be. Chairman Rob Arguelles stated that he thinks that a new superintendent should be aware of the school system’s current financial situation, should help with the erosion of student enrollment numbers, should build trust and transparency within the community, should have a focus on planning for the future, and should have positive collaboration with local government.

Board member Brigette Rhyne said that a new superintendent should be able to help with the enrollment and funding issues facing the county, should help with communication obstacles, and should focus on parental involvement. She added that she doesn’t want to “see someone come in here and start closing schools and firing people.”

Board Member Josh Dagenhart said a new superintendent should address the problem of decreased enrollment, should show budget accountability, and should help to increase parental involvement.

Board Member Ramie Robinson said that a superintendent needs to have effective communication, should help with budget trends, and should have a constant vision for the future.

Board Vice Chairman Matthew Reese said school funding, the decline in enrollment, and parental involvement were his top three priorities for a new superintendent.

Board member Scott Bowman said that he recognizes that the Western part of the county is growing and he sees the possible need to redistrict in the future. He wants a superintendent who will understand the close knit community in Alexander County and he wants someone who can relate to employees and parents, someone who will be seen as active in the community.

Board member Anthony McLain said that the budget crisis, communication, and community involvement are his top three attributes for a new superintendent.

The Masonboro group saw the repeated trends in the feedback from the board and say their next step is to get feedback from Alexander County School Staff and Parents.

To get feedback from these groups, the following meetings are planned:
• The first meeting is planned for Tuesday, March 5, at 3:45 p.m at West Alexander Middle School. This is for all staff who work at feeder schools for West, as well as the West staff. Following that meeting, there will be a 7:00 p.m. meeting for parents in the same location who represent the schools on the west side of the county.
• The next meeting is planned for Thursday, March 7, at 3:45 p.m. at East Alexander Middle School. This is for all staff who work at feeder schools for East, as well as the East staff. Following that meeting, there will be a 7:00 PM meeting for parents in the same location who represent the schools on the east side of the county.

The Masonboro Group has also asked the district leaders to survey opinions through a questionnaire sent to each household and posted on social media. The questionnaire will be posted on the homepage for Alexander County Schools.

The Masonboro Group representatives say they intend to listen to every voice and tabulate the commonalities before searching for any candidates. They expect to find 20-25 qualified candidates. Their plan is to bring forth their findings at the March 12 School Board meeting.

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