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TCES council to interview six candidates

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By James Roberts

Six people, including some Taylor Countians, are in the running for the Taylor County Elementary principal's job.

Karen Bruce, TCES teacher and vice chairwoman of the school's site-based decision making council, said 11 applicants have been pared down to six, twice as many as the council interviewed in September.

"We reviewed the applicants based on various criteria," Bruce said.

Parents and faculty completed surveys, indicating what qualities the new principal should possess. According to those results, TCES parents and faculty want a principal who is a good communicator, has elementary school experience and supports a positive school climate.

Those traits were used to screen the applicants.

Bruce said the SBDM Council hopes to make an offer before spring break. The council will interview three candidates today, then interview the remaining three on March 12.

"We will narrow [the six applicants] down to two or three and call them back for an additional interview. By spring break, we hope to offer the job to [the best applicant]."

However, the new principal will not start until the end of the school year, Bruce said.

"[Interim Principal Herbert] Wheat will finish out the school year. We want [the new principal] to have time to work with Mr. Wheat at the end of the year."

The principal's post was left vacant last June when Bill Mattingly resigned to accept Taylor County Schools' new position of director of district-wide programs. Mattingly was TCES principal for seven years.

Mattingly oversees health, student wellness, student and employee safety and physical education curriculums and is a full-time central office employee.

In June, Superintendent Gary Seaborne said the new position is a result of nationwide concern about juvenile health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

State law gives a school's site-based council the responsibility of hiring principals after having recruitment and interview training. The councils are comprised of three teachers, two parents and a principal. A vice chair assumes the principal's role on the council when hiring a new principal.

After interviewing three candidates in September, Bruce said, the SBDM opted to repost the position later in the school year. The position was posted again on Jan. 10.

The initial posting was made on June 29, too close to the start of the school year, meaning many qualified applicants had already accepted other jobs.

The applicant pool was far more impressive this time, Bruce said, providing the council plenty of qualified applicants.

Wheat will finish out the remainder of the school year, Bruce said. Seaborne appointed Wheat as interim principal in October.

Wheat's teaching career began in Jefferson County in 1964. After a few years there, he moved back to his hometown of Russell County, where he remained for about eight years. His next stop was Wayne County, where he finished up his teaching career, retiring in 1995. However, he then served two years as administrative assistant to the Wayne County superintendent.

After leaving Wayne County, Wheat was director of the Lake Cumberland Area Development District's youth program. After a couple of years there, he went to Somerset Community College where he recruited lower income students and taught English as a second language.

"He has a reputation of being a gentleman and being a fair-minded individual. I feel fortunate to have him for this position," Seaborne said in October.

- Staff Writer James Roberts can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 226 or by e-mail at writer@cknj.com. Comment on this story at www.cknj.com.