Craig Witherspoon, the presumptive superintendent of Richland 1, turned down an invitation to come to a community forum and allay parental concerns about his vision for the 24,000-district before he signs his contract, school board member Beatrice King said Monday.
“It was disappointing, but not surprising,” said King, who issued the invitation to the former Birmingham administrator last week. He declined in an email to her, but said he planned to host town hall-style meetings and one-on-one sessions when he arrives in Columbia.
Efforts Monday to reach Witherspoon were unsuccessful.
It was not clear when Witherspoon would sign the contract with the board, which voted 5-2 on Feb. 27 to select him from among three finalists for the post. But the board sent out a revised agenda Monday afternoon that included the addition of a contractual matter that would be discussed during executive session Tuesday.
There was a flurry of last minute opposition to his selection by some parents, who told the board they wanted more time to analyze the credentials of all three finalists, including Witherspoon; John Covington, a former Kansas City and Michigan administrator; and Diana Greene, a Florida deputy superintendent.
Witherspoon and Covington had generated controversy in their former positions. Witherspoon endured a host of problems with the Birmingham school system, narrowly missed being fired and watched as the state took over the troubled school system.
Odell Stuckey, a consultant with the search firm of BWP & Associates, which conducted the search, said he believes Witherspoon was well vetted by the search firm and by the attorney for the school board.
“We did check on him in Birmingham and then asked the lawyer for the board to do some checking too,” he said Monday. Stuckey said the timetable for signing the contract is now up to the school board.
“I like him. He’s a good man,” said Stuckey. “He has good credentials.” He said controversy over candidates “is not typical” in the searches he has conducted, although there have been instances of rancor in selections.
King, one of two members who voted again Witherspoon, said she was hoping to delay the vote because so many in the community do not have a sense of his vision or leadership abilities.
She said she had the same amount of interview time with each of the three finalists.