Madison City Schools to announce superintendent finalists Thursday

MADISON, Ala. - Madison City Schools will announce finalists for the open superintendent position on Thursday at a board of education meeting.

The meeting starts at 5 p.m.

Dee Fowler, the previous superintendent, left office on December 1 after taking a job with the state.  December 19, the application period ended. The Madison City School board has been going over the applications with the board attorney, and will reveal the top picks during Thursday's meeting.

We're told after that, the finalists will have a chance to meet the public and board during an interview period.

This process is already at work in Huntsville. Huntsville City Schools is doing its own search, and will welcome interviewees for the role of superintendent there for rounds of interviews next week.

Two searching school boards

Experts we spoke with say it's rare to have neighboring school systems conduct superintendent searches at the same time like this. Eric Mackey, Executive Director of the organization School Superintendents of Alabama, said they might even have some of the same candidates for these two jobs.

"I would actually be really surprised if we don't see a lot of overlap in applicants in Madison and Huntsville," explained Mackey. "Also, I'll be surprised if we don't see some overlap in finalists. I wouldn't think they'd end up with the same pool of finalists, but I'd think probably at least 1 or 2 of the same people may pop up on both lists. And the reason is really simple: because Huntsville and Madison, they are really top notch school systems and communities."

And since the school boards are interviewing at the same time, Mackey said the communities should be ready for a transition that may happen at the same time.

He said if one or more of the same people turn up on the finalist lists from each school system, it could spark a hiring race. It could also have the opposite effect, though, and boards may decide against candidates who appear on both lists in favor of those who only showed interest in coming to one community.

Ultimately, he said it comes down to trusting the boards who are making the decisions.

"I guess we all just have to have confidence that the two boards will each pick the person that's best suited for that community, and they'll work together well," said Mackey.

Making the right choices

David Blair, former Huntsville City School board member, said it's now the community's turn to give feedback on the candidates to their board representatives. It's all about getting them the tools they need to make the right choice for the people they serve.

"They all really strive to have that input from the community to make sure they're covering the bases and asking the right questions," he said.

He added that no matter who is on the finalist list for each district, it's important to consider that both searching boards have very different needs. While Madison is working toward resolving the Limestone County tax issue, and possibly considering rezoning in the need for more schools to serve a growing population, Huntsville has other big decisions ahead. Each will need a leader in place capable of handling the issues.

"Huntsville, on the other hand, has a completely different demographic. They have a desegregation order they're working through. So there's a different skill set for each one," Blair noted.

We will find out who is on Madison's list at the board meeting Thursday. Each board wants to have a superintendent in place by the start of February.