Twenty-four applications and five months later, Catawba County Schools Board of Education named its interim superintendent as its new leader for the next three years.
During a Monday meeting, board members voted 6-1 to hire Glenn Barger as the full-time superintendent until 2014. Board member Sherry Butler cast the dissenting vote.
"It is the board's majority opinion that Mr. Barger should be appointed as superintendent of Catawba County Schools to lead the board and the school system through these trying times," said chairwoman Joyce Spencer during a public statement Monday night regarding the hire of Barger. "The continuity of his leadership will provide stability and strength in the superintendent's position."
Spencer said "challenging years" brought the board to its decision to keep Barger as superintendent after recent months of service since Oct. 1 and a "smooth transition" after Dr. Tim Markley resigned Sept. 31. Markley accepted a job at New Hanover County Schools in Wilmington.
In August, the Board of Education hired the North Carolina School Board Association and paid $9,500 for service in searching for a new superintendent. The board received 24 applications at its December meeting, after two new board members —Glenn Fulbright and David Brittain — were sworn in. The board's first closed-session meeting was Jan. 4 to discuss the candidates' applications.
However, plans changed.
"We didn't discuss or review the applications," Spencer said. " ... Prior to moving forward with the process, the board engaged in a discussion regarding input from community leaders, administrators, teachers and support staff regarding Mr. Barger and his service in the role of interim superintendent."
Spencer said the board agreed, too, that Barger's characteristics "mirrored" those requested in staff and community surveys conducted by the NCSBA in the superintendent search process.
Because of a personnel confidentiality agreement, Spencer couldn't comment Monday on whether any of the applicants were current superintendents.
"The board wishes to make it absolutely clear that Mr. Barger at no time pursued the role of superintendent," Spencer said. "Mr. Barger was asked by the board to consider withdrawing from the retirement system, returning to active service and continuing in the role as superintendent for the school system from April 1 through and including June 30, 2014."
Barger agreed and signed a contract Monday after the board's vote to hire him as the school system's full-time superintendent.
"(Being superintendent) wasn't in my thought process," he said. "I will stay until they find a superintendent. I told them to continue looking. It is still my goal for (the board) to find a superintendent."
The board canceled its contract with the NCSBA after it determined Barger was going to be hired.
"(The NCSBA) did their job," Butler said. "We didn't complete the process."
Butler said she felt like the $9,500 used to pay the NCSBA for the superintendent search could've been used otherwise, especially when the school system is in difficult budgetary times.
Spencer said NCSBA assisted the board in supplying applicants for the interim superintendent position; advertising the superintendent position; accepting applications from candidates; conducted staff and community surveys and gathered results from those surveys; and facilitated the Board of Education in removing Barger from the retirement system.
Barger's salary is $158,000, and his contract states he will receive salary increases as allowed by the state.
Applications received for the superintendent search were returned to the NCSBA, where they are kept on record, according to CCS attorney Crystal Davis.