1 trustees voted 5-2 Friday night to hire Craig as the district’s superintendent, even as controversy swirled about him and another of the three top finalists and some parents sought to delay the vote.
Whenname was announced toward the end of a half-hour meeting, numerous gasps of “Oh my God!” and “Oh no!” could be heard throughout the trustees’ packed chambers in downtown Columbia as many in the audience registered disapproval
Before the vote, four people told board membersand another of the top three candidates had troubled pasts and urged the board to delay the vote so more vetting of candidates could be done. And an African-American woman, noting that the top three candidates were all African-American, implored the trustees to make their selection from a field that was more diverse.
“Hopefully the board will have a more diverse group of candidates, as far as race is concerned,” saidCapone, who called for a delay, also telling the trustees some candidates had “sketchy pasts.”
most recently served as superintendent of Birmingham City Schools in Birmingham, Ala. Before being named to that job in 2010, served as superintendent of County Public Schools in eastern North Carolina. He began his educational career as a teacher and became an assistant principal, a principal and an assistant superintendent in school districts in Virginia and North Carolina.
was supposed to serve as Birmingham’s superintendent through 2018, but he announced his resignation in October 2014, shortly after he revealed the discovery of an improperly bid $65,000 curriculum department expenditure, according to news accounts.
All three of the top final candidates were African-American. Seventy-three percent of the 23,000 students in the district, which stretches from the north Columbia area to Lower, are black.
Friday’s vote was along racial lines, with chairwoman Cheryl Harris and trustees Vince Ford, Aaron Bishop, Jamieand Dwayne Smiling voting for , and trustees Beatrice King and Pamela Adams voting “No.”
None of the objections tospecifically concerned race. All were focused on concerns about a proper lack of vetting candidates, worries that parents and educators hadn’t had a fair chance to meet him and that the process was being rushed.
None of the board members elaborated on why the majority chose. Neither did a two-page press release issued after Friday’s meeting give any indication of what if anything in character or accomplishments had caused trustees to favor him.
Asked after Friday’s meeting why he thoughtwas the best person to be superintendent, Ford said he could not comment, saying they were still in a personnel search because they had not signed a contract.
He also would not say whether he had backedin 2008, when he also was among the top contenders for the 1 post.
Before the final vote, chairwoman Harris told a largely skeptical audience that trustees had conducted a lengthy, thorough nationwide search since September after former superintendent Percy Mack stepped down in June. The board had hired BWP to conduct a “national superintendent search,” and BWP also held numerous forums to solicit fromparents and educators what they wanted in a superintendent.
By Jan. 20, BWP had come up with 77 candidates from 26 states, and the board began interviewing seven of those. In February, the board selected three finalists, who toured the district and met educators and parents at two “meet and greets,” Harris said.
Harris said the board had not only conducted numerous interviews with the finalists, but a lawyer retained by the board also vetted the finalists with “a very extensive background check.”
“Through this process of evaluation and assessment, we are at this point tonight,” Harris told the audience. Harris did not identify the lawyer hired to do background checks, but another board member identified him as Charlesof Columbia. The district’s Friday press release said BWP was paid $25,900 for its efforts.
Trustee Jamiemade the motion to select as new district superintendent “upon completion of successful contract negotiations.”
No salary figure was given for. Mack made somewhat more than $200,000, school officials said.
Just before the vote on, trustee King offered a motion that the board delay any vote until trustees had a chance to do more due diligence on him and other candidates by visiting the places where they had held superintendent posts and talked to people there.
“We cannot expect to know everything from just talking with them,” King said. “We owe this to our parents and to our community at large.”
Adams and King voted against offeringthe job.
Adams said she supported King and noted that not everyone who wanted to meet the candidates was informed of the meetings, a complaint that parents have been making for days.
Except for Harris’ explanation of how the board conducted its search, none of the other board members spoke at any length.
The other finalists were John, a former Kansas City and Michigan administrator, and Diana Greene, a Florida deputy superintendent.
Once the finalists’ names were made public, though, some parents did Google searches and found blistering news accounts detailing the professional woes of, whose district schools lost accreditation following his tenure, and , who survived two board attempts to fire him before resigning last year from Birmingham schools.
Last week, the three were brought in for a meet-and-greet that was not well publicized by the district and left some constituents trying unsuccessfully to contact their elected board members to voice objections.
After the meeting, many in the 60-plus audience left disappointed.
“I’m shocked they voted tonight considering the outpouring of concern,” said Jessica, head of the Elementary PTO, one of the parents who had urged trustees to delay a vote to make sure they were voting on the three best candidates. “They could have allayed concerns by saying why they loved his guy – but they didn’t. I can only assume we don’t know the full story.”
Since Mack resigned last year, the interim superintendent has been Cynthia Cash-Greene.