Final Superintendent Candidate Drops Out

The Charlottesville School Board has to start from scratch in finding a new superintendent. Last night, candidate James Pughsley accepted the same job in Charlotte, NC, leaving Albemarle’s own Jean Murray as the last (wo)man standing. But Murray, as some cvillenewsers predicted that she might, has withdrawn her application. That leaves the board with none of the three candidates remaining. School Board Chairman Richard Merriweather says that he expects to get a new superintendent by the new school year. WINA has the story.

8 thoughts on “Final Superintendent Candidate Drops Out”

  1. From the Daily Progress (05/30/02)


    Daily Progress staff writer

    And the other shoe drops.

    Charlottesville has lost both its second- and third-ranked superintendent finalists, school officials said Wednesday.

    The candidates� departure � coming days after top applicant Kriner Cash left the field � places the city School Board back at square one a month before Superintendent Bill C. Symons is to retire.

    James Pughsley, the School Board�s No. 2 candidate, accepted a two-year term late Tuesday as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Public Schools in North Carolina, his home school system.

    Pughsley, who was unavailable for comment Wednesday, said no to Charlottesville�s offer Saturday, according to School Board Chairman Richard Merriwether.

    Also on Tuesday, Albemarle County assistant superintendent Jean Murray, the board�s third choice, withdrew her application without having been offered the Charlottesville job.

    Merriwether called Murray�s withdrawal a surprise and said he spoke with her Tuesday about the decision. Merriwether would not elaborate on their conversation.

    Murray could not be reached Wednesday, and her secretary said she declined to comment.

    Assistant superintendent Ron Hutchinson was named interim superintendent Wednesday, for a period of six months or less, as required by the state. He will take the position July 1. A permanent replacement must be hired by January.

    “This has not been as good a process as we would have liked it to be,” School Board member John Santoski said Wednesday. “It�s been kind of unfortunate.”

    Merriwether said the board is “still looking” for candidates and is working with the Virginia School Boards Association, which facilitated the original search in October.

    The board also is re-examining some of the 35 applications it passed over last fall. Merriwether said he hopes to have another slate of finalists within a week.

    “When you go after the cream of the crop, you see what happens,” Merriwether said. “Everybody else wants them.”

    Merriwether said Cash and Pughsley had been offered more money by their home school systems, and in deputy superintendent Pughsley�s case, a promotion.

    Charlotte�s superintendent, Eric White, is taking a job in Maryland. Pughsley will start his two-year term July 1. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Board of Education is expected to make the promotion formal June 11.

    Back in Charlottesville, educators and community members were both dismayed and hopeful.

    “I�m very disappointed,” Mayor Blake Caravati said. “I was hoping we�d have someone a couple of weeks ago. This is the most important position in the city.”

    John Baldino, the region�s Virginia Education Association representative, expressed concern that Charlottesville may not attract the same caliber of candidates this late in the year. Many top administrators are hired by July, he added.

    “I think it could have been handled differently” by the School Board, Baldino said, adding that the board�s ranking of the three candidates ought not to have been made public.

    “No one wants to be the public�s second choice, and that�s what it came down to,” he said.

    But Merriwether said he wouldn�t have conducted the process differently.

    “We did everything possible,” he said. “We had the best candidates in our sights.”

    Karl Ackerman, co-president of Burnley-Moran Elementary School�s PTO, said he was sorry Cash decided not to come to Charlottesville. The Martha�s Vineyard, Mass., superintendent refused the job last week because his mother is ill.

    A member of the public panels that interviewed the three candidates in early May, Ackerman said that as the search resumes he will “once again call for broad involvement, especially from the principals.”

    “That is the sign of a strong school system,” he said.

    Merriwether said the board is considering another public interview process.

    Caravati expressed faith in the VSBA search team, calling them “pros.”

    “If there�s a diamond in the rough, they�ll find it,” the mayor said.

  2. Maybe now they’ll change their selection criteria and give Irving Jones from Monticello HS a chance at the job. He’s the best candidate.

  3. For what it’s worth. I hear he’s pretty close to retirement and didn’t apply for the job when it was originally posted.

  4. Hutchinson has provided a steady hand in various positions in the Charlottesville schools’ central office. The fact that he nears retirement makes this even more interesting.

    If we do not name a superintendent within 6 months, one will be named for us by the State. The fact is we are entering one of the worst times to be looking. The January to June timeframe is when people throw their hats in the ring and assessments are made and hirings take place. This is ideal because it is poor form for someone to leave their previous system high and dry either in the middle of the year or in the summer when there is not enough time to screen applicants and go through the hiring process.

    The point of all this? If Hutchinson were to be named superintendent with the idea that he would be retiring two years into his contract, we would have a lot of time to explore candidates and assess whether those candidates were seriously interested in taking the position rather than just putting themselves out there to see what they could get and while we were finding that elusive “great” superintendent (one we haven’t had since the days of Cibarrelli and McGeehan), we would have a reliable, likable, intelligent and knowledgeable hand at the wheel.

    It’s just a thought!

  5. Principals who seek to become superintendents have to start somewhere. Let’s hope it’s not here.

    The best path for Irving Jones would be to get into administration at the highest level he can if that is what he wants to do – he might be able to be an assistant superintendent in a smaller district.

    But Charlottesville is not the place that tries out a principal as its next superintendent. We need someone who has been tested and proven to be stellar and who has the experience to inspire our confidence.

  6. I thought that we were done with all of this. Can’t you and your friends just go away and leave us alone here!

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