MONTGOMERY — Three Alabamians and a Texan are finalists to be the state’s next superintendent of education.
The Alabama State Board of Education will interview the four Friday, and vote to hire one of them the same day.
• Eric Mackey, executive director of School Superintendents of Alabama and the former superintendent at Jacksonville City Schools;
• Kathy Murphy, superintendent at Hoover City Schools and former superintendent at Monroe County Schools;
• Craig Pouncey, superintendent at Jefferson County Schools and former deputy state superintendent;
• Robert Scott, education consultant and former Texas commissioner of education.
“Having an effective superintendent is absolutely essential to the future of our educational endeavors,” Gov. Kay Ivey said after the board meeting Friday where the finalist were selected. “It is so, so important that we have a capable, competent, well-experienced superintendent.”
The candidates were not present Friday as board members scored their applications.
Forty-one people applied for the job leading Alabama’s K-12 public schools. A search firm, Ray and Associates, presented the board with seven finalists it had selected based on criteria set by the board.
The other three candidates presented were — Kimber Halliburton, director of schools in Washington County, Tennessee; Maria Pitre-Martin, North Caroline deputy state superintendent; and Jeffrey Moss, superintendent in Beaufort County, South Carolina.
This selection process is different than the one two years ago that ended with the hiring of Michael Sentance. He quit in September after a tumultuous year on the job. That search was handled internally by the department of education.
Board Vice President Stephanie Bell said Friday she pushed for an outside consultant this time, as had been used in other superintendent searches, because the searches and vetting of candidates is more thorough.
Sentence’s annual salary was $198,000 with a benefits package worth about $45,000 a year.
After the meeting, board member Mary Scott Hunter, R-Huntsville, said she would not recuse herself from the process. One of the candidates, Pouncey, has a defamation lawsuit against Hunter, a result of the 2016 superintendent search process. He had been a leading candidate for the job until anonymous accusations against him were circulated and made public.
Hunter has denied any wrongdoing.
On Friday, she said she will judge each candidate on their merits.
State Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Cullman, attended Friday’s meeting. Shedd, who represents a portion of Morgan County, sponsored a resolution earlier this year asking the board “to search nationwide for the most highly qualified person to serve as the (superintendent) and perform the search and recruitment by any means necessary.”
“They’re all fine people,” Shedd said Friday about the finalists. “I just hope they’re the best for the situation.”
Shedd said the state needs a superintendent with an effective plan for improving education, including in rural areas, and the ability to articulate that plan to the Legislature and public.