DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - By the end of the month, Dothan City Schools hopes to name a new superintendent. Tuesday, school board members interviewed the last three candidates vying for the position.
Dr. Phyllis Edwards previously worked as a superintendent of Decatur School System on the outskirts of Atlanta for at least 12 years. She also worked with Flagler County Schools in Florida for over 20 years, some of which was spent serving at Assistant Superintendent.
During Edwards' two hour interview, she talked about her work building positive relationships between students, parents, and the community, "You need to be at the schools and be visible. As I said, maybe have listening sessions, open office hours, go places where people are so they can get to know you," said Edwards.
Edwards also discussed her experience balancing a school system's budget, stating she never had issues with budgets and in her previous experience she started working on school budgets early and included people in the conversation so that when it was time to pass a budget there were no issues.
Over the last six years, Dothan City Schools has had at least two superintendents. In 2014, the board voted to fire Tim Wilder following allegations of sexual harassment made by a former employee. Dr. Charles
Ledbetter was named the superintendent in 2015. Dr. Ledbetter served as superintendent for nearly 2 years before moving on to serve as superintendent at Pike Road Schools. One question posed to Dr. Edwards from the community was if she got the job, could they count on her to stay,
"I'm comfortable becoming a part of the community. What I also said was that you know it's really up to God. None of us know one day from the next what's going to happen. Yes, I'd be willing to stay and do my very best and provide continuity because I think that's what they're looking for," said Edwards.
Dr. Donna Ray Hill, a former superintendent who led a school system in Macon, Georgia also told the board he'd be willing to stay long-term if he were selected for the job. During his interview, the one trait he brought up several times was his commitment to transparency and effective communication,
"One thing we have to do with parents is be honest. Sometimes we haven't always been honest in education because we started treating education as if it were a corporation."
Hill noted his experience managing school system budgets and discussed his work of turning around a system that had over a million dollar deficit. He said it was too early to say what specific things he'd like to address if chosen for the job, but says his first goal is to talk with the community about their vision for the school district.
"I presented to the board a 90-day plan. It simply talks about me hitting the ground running and listening to what's happening in the school district. Talking to people and finding out what their concerns are," said Hill.
Dr. Alan Miller was the last candidate to interview. He works as an Assistant Professor of Instructional Leadership at Auburn-Montgomery. Miller says he's familiar with the school system because of his ties to the Wiregrass through family. He says one thing he's already identified as an area of improvement is bridging gaps between schools within the system.
"What is making our magnet schools standout? What practices and policies are contributing to the success we see there, which is really awesome. How can we take those and replicate those in places we want to grow?"
Miller says his approach to balancing a school system's budget is tracking revenue monthly with the system's Chief Financial Officer. Miller says his leadership style is based on his experience in the military,
"It taught me that leadership is about service and empowering those around you to accomplish your shared mission."
Candidates Dr. Larry Collier, and Martha Compton interviewed before the board Monday.
School board chairman Mike Schmitz says the next step in the process will be a public meeting and the goal is to have a superintendent named by Nov. 28.