Chair: The board stopped its search

Catawba County Schools Board of Education has no intentions of continuing its search for a superintendent for at least three years.

The state legislature's "unknowns" and Glenn Barger's experience led a majority of Catawba County Schools Board of Education to stop its superintendent search and stick with its current leader. The 24 applications received in the superintendent search were shredded or sent back to the North Carolina School Board Association.

Barger was approved at a 6-1 vote Monday night to become the school system's full-time superintendent, effective April 1. Board member Sherry Butler opposed hiring Barger as the superintendent.

"All the issues that are so unsettled (in the legislature) had a bearing in the board's decision," said board chairwoman Joyce Spencer on Tuesday.

Spencer explained the issues the school system considered include "serious budget issues that all school systems are facing that legislation is now building;" the Charter School Senate Bill 8 that could cut funding from CCS; a potential merger among school systems in Catawba County; and the state's decision to change public school calendar rules.

"All (the legislative issues) had an impact on the board's decision," she said, adding "continuity, stability and established leadership" were the main characteristics needed in a school system leader.

"That's the reason the board had those as strong factors in continuation of (Barger's) services," she said. "There are a lot of unknowns that we wouldn't even pretend to project or predict. That leadership for the board, the school system and the community is critical."

With 24 applications in hand, the board of education members met in a closed-session meeting Jan. 4. However, Spencer said Monday the board's discussions didn't include candidates in hand. Instead, the board discussed Barger's months as interim and how he can help CCS move through new state laws and budget crunches.

Barger was offered the superintendent position in early January, but didn't provide his final answer until February, he said Tuesday.

"The contract details weren't a major thing," Barger said. "It was me trying to make up my mind."

According to Barger, if the board finds a candidate to take on the role of superintendent before his contract is complete, he'll step down within 90 days of new hire notification.

"We are not searching," Spencer said. "Mr. Barger has consented to accept the position with the understanding that if there were any circumstances in the future to hire a more permanent longer term (superintendent), then he will be more than willing to step down."

Since the board of education chose Barger as its superintendent, the board no longer has access to the applications received, and the potential candidates are not under consideration, Spencer said Tuesday.

"Everyone's entitled to their opinion," Spencer said. "I hope those individuals (who disagree) will understand that the majority of the board felt that the individual we needed was already in the interim superintendent position, and we didn't need to go further than that. I feel the board's action was in the best interest of the schools."

Opposing side

Butler, who opposed Monday's hire, also disagreed with the board's decision to hire Barger to be interim superintendent.

"I worked with Mr. Barger, and he was an excellent superintendent," Butler told The O-N-E in an Aug. 31 article. "He has been out of education for 10 years. I feel like there's been too many changes in that period of time to give him my vote. I thought we had more candidates who were qualified and up-to-date. I don't think you can go back. To go back, isn't good. I go to look forward."

Butler's comments Monday weren't far from her previous standpoint when Barger entered the superintendent discussions.

"I like Mr. Barger and think he's a fine man," she said. "I thought we needed to go through the process. We are going to have to (search) again at some point. This is a short-term fix to a long-term issue. We should've not been as short-sighted (in choosing a superintendent)."

Whether Barger was the best choice for the position, Butler leaves that question to action.

"There is no question that he knows a great deal about our facilities and the running of the facilities themselves," she said. "What I call into question is the knowledge of curriculum (due to) being out of it for 10 years. In the last six months, he's gained (knowledge) and been brought up to speed. Do I think he'll get there? Yes, he will at some point in time."

Barger said he's learned a lot about 21st century education and credits it to his central office staff, principals and teachers since he came on board five month ago.

"We are on the cutting edge," he said. "It will continue to be a learning process."

Butler, also, thinks the state's legislative concerns will continue to
change and new challenges develop in the coming years.

"This is certainly the most challenging funding time," she said. "We are going to continue to see things like that as years go by with the money situation at the state. There is not a short-term answer to any (of the legislative concerns).

"I think it seems that the possibility was over the merger upon the school system," Butler continued. "That's the only bill introduced into the legislature that would fund one superintendent per county. There is great speculation of other bills to be introduced, but not at this time."

Butler referenced the Charter School Senate Bill 8, which could release the cap on charter schools and take funds from CCS. She said that particular bill has appeared before.

"We are going to continue to see things like that as years go by with the money situation as the state," she said. "I don't see any of (the legislative unknowns) going away any time soon, especially those of funding."