MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's State Board of Education took steps Tuesday toward selecting the next Superintendent of Alabama schools.
Dr. Joe Morton had held the position for 11 years and he resigned last summer forcing the board to search for a replacement.
"It was somewhat of a relaxed process" said Governor Robert Bentley who chairs the board. "We worked our way through it and I think the way it turned out I think its fine we have four quality candidates that we can interview and if we can find the right person within that four then that's good, then that's streamlined the process."
Brenda Welburn, the Executive Director of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) helped facilitate the state's search and said there were fewer applications than she anticipated for such a high level position.
"States are going through a lot of change right now" Welburn said.
Seven people applied for the top K through 12 position in Alabama, all of them men.
After about an hour and a half of sifting through applications, the board eventually decided to interview four of the candidates for the position.
Two of the finalists, Dr. Craig Pouncey and Dr. Thomas "Tommy" Bice, already serve with the Department of Education in Deputy Superintendent roles. Pouncey has an additional title of Deputy for Administration and Financial Development.
The other two finalists are from out of state with education backgrounds. Byron Garrett who resides in Maryland, currently serves as the CEO of Lifeworks International, and previously held the position of CEO with the National Parent Teacher Association.
Mark Bounds lives in South Carolina and works as a Deputy State Superintendent of School Effectiveness in the South Carolina Department of Education.
One board member, Stephanie Bell, raised the concern that local school superintendents had not shown great interest in applying. None of the seven applicants are current superintendents in Alabama. Bice and Pouncey have each previously served in local roles before joining the Department of Education. Bell blamed that fact on misinformation.
Bell said "They basically had the understanding that the job had already been filled without being filled and that simply was not true. We want to have an open process."
Governor Bentley who initially said he only wanted to interview three candidates instead of four said the fact no local superintendents applied for the job didn't bother him.
"If an individual feels as if they are qualified they should apply" Gov. Bentley said. "Just because you don't get it doesn't mean you shouldn't apply."
The governor also indicated that he did not view the two Alabama-based candidates with any particular favor.
"I want the best person for the job" he said.
The candidates will all be interviewed starting Nov. 10. In the meantime, Welburn with NASBE said she will begin the vetting process by contacting the candidates' former employers and coworkers. She will also conduct criminal background checks for each of them.