The Claiborne County School Board can now breathe a sigh of relief as plans are being made to welcome the new director of schools, slated to officially take office on July 1. Dr. Joseph Miller handily won the coveted seat, beating out three other finalists with a landslide vote of six to one.
Board chairman Neta Munsey was the holdout.
The roll call vote was officially taken during the opening moments of the regular monthly board meeting with a call by Munsey for nominations. Board members Shane Bunch and Justin Cosby made and seconded the motion to nominate Miller.
“I have to say that this board worked very, very hard to pick the person who is the one for our students, our parents, our teachers and our whole community,” said Munsey, just prior to the nomination.
Currently the director and principal of Career Technical Education in Morgan County – Wartburg campus, Miller will be picking up the reins handed over by Connie Holdway, who is retiring from the position on June 30.
The four finalists recently battled over a four hour stretch of time, during a previously held meeting, in the hopes of landing the director’s position. During his presentation, Miller outlined a five-year plan to enhance the school system. His top priorities include a supportive workplace for staff, shared leadership and community involvement.
He equated the directorship with the position of CEO, saying he would streamline efforts for the best use of resources and would maintain an air of open communication.
During the battle presentation, Miller said he envisions diversifying personnel where staff is trained to handle multiple jobs. Also on his short list is the creation of technical and career coach positions.
Turning to the ACT scores, Miller projected an improvement of .56 percent, per school year, bringing the score to state standards by the end of his five-year plan.
Cosby asked Miller, during the question and answer portion of the presentation, what inspired him to become an educator.
Miller, who had considered law school, said he came to a “crossroads in life.”
“I decided I didn’t want to spend my time in a courtroom or a law office. I would like to spend it helping kids before they face (life) choices,” said Miller.
When asked about his impressions of the Common Core curriculum, he said he has a problem with a student who achieves high school status but cannot recite the multiplication tables.
“Now, that’s wrong,” said Miller, during the presentation meeting.
He said he would like to see more time spent on the ‘basics’ of educational instruction.
“In Common Core, teachers are told what to teach. They’re not necessarily always told how to teach it. So, I think, sometimes a little bit of this could be intertwined with creativity by the teacher and, hopefully, students will walk away with a little more (liberal) education,” said Miller.
Miller beat out Lafollette Elementary principal Meredith Arnold, Cumberland Gap principal Linda Keck and Jim Shipley, who is the principal of Springdale Elementary School.
Second district board member Micheal Jo Gray took a moment near the end of the regular monthly meeting on Thursday evening to thank everyone involved in the directorship hunt.
“I’m not blind to this. There’s people that’s going to be happier than others with what took place tonight. But, I want us all to remember to look forward and come together – to work together and move forward.
“Sometimes, during this process, I found myself thinking about what I wanted and what I thought. I had to stop and realize it wasn’t about me. It’s about what’s best for this system and for the children. Let’s move forward and work together to make this the best school system in Tennessee,” said Gray.
Reach Jan Runions at 423-254-5588 or on Twitter @scribeCP.