The Memphis City Schools (MCS) interim superintendent search committee has selected two finalists: one an MCS insider, the other a former state superintendent currently working as an education consultant.
Each member of the committee submitted up to five candidates. The names of candidates who received at least two votes were then alphabetized, and board members spoke on behalf of their favorite candidates.
Daniel Ward, an MCS deputy superintendent from 2004-2005 and former MCS principal, received the most votes with seven. Robert Schiller, a former state superintendent in Illinois and Michigan, received five.
Some committee members thought Ward's experience with MCS would be a major plus. Ward also has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Memphis.
Fairy Shull, president of the Parent Assembly, said she would prefer to hire a candidate from within MCS. "I think it would send the wrong message to the Executive Leadership Team to hire someone from the outside," she said.
In a written statement, commissioner Betty Mallot said that Ward is "well known and respected by MCS staff and school administrators [and] highly respected by peers as an area superintendent and as a principal."
Schiller, on the other hand, has never worked with MCS. In addition to his positions in Illinois and Michigan, Schiller was deputy state superintendent in Louisiana and Delaware; district superintendent in five urban and suburban districts in New Jersey, Maryland, and Louisiana; and interim superintendent in Baltimore.
Mallot said, "With [Schiller's] past experience as a consultant, he will know how to use that to his advantage, not his disadvantage, as an outsider."
Likewise, at-large commissioner Wanda Halbert backed Schiller. "Our problems and our challenges are no different from any other school district in the United States," she said.
Commissioner Martavius Jones, the head of the committee, expressed mixed feelings: "I voted for Dr. Schiller, as well. But the concern I have is that he's an outsider, and it would take a while to build the relationships that any superintendent needs."
The board hopes to make a decision as soon as possible so that Superintendent Carol Johnson can train her interim replacement before she leaves for her new job in Boston.