JPS scraps superintendent search, for now

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Jackson Public Schools

Interim JPS Superintendent Freddrick Murray

After months of debate, Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees on Tuesday reversed its decision on how to find the district’s next superintendent.

After a roughly 30 minute discussion, the board voted to abandon the process of hiring a consultant to conduct a national search for the next JPS superintendent.

Instead, the board decided to keep interim superintendent Freddrick Murray in place for the upcoming school year.

Murray stepped in as the district’s interim leader in November, after former superintendent Cedrick Gray resigned. Gray’s departure came in the wake of the Jackson School District receiving an F rating from the state’s accountability system, as well as a potential downgrade of the school district’s accreditation status.

The board agreed in January to put out a request for proposal for search firms to conduct a national search, but the document was later withdrawn for revisions. At Tuesday’s meeting, an updated Request for Proposal (RFP) was voted down.

Instead, board member Camille Stutts Simms put forth a motion to keep Murray in place as interim superintendent for the remainder of the current school year and 2017-18 school year. The original RFP said the board anticipated a new leader would be in place “no later than July 1, 2017.”

“The board decided it would delay that process until the next school year, but in the interim that there would be due diligence around looking at issues that are important to the community in securing a superintendent,” Board President Beneta Burt told reporters after the meeting.

Burt, Stutts Simms, and Kodi Hobbs voted for the motion, passing it. Jed Oppenheim voted against it and board member Rickey Jones did not vote. Kimberly Campbell and Richard Lind were not present at the meeting.

During the discussion, members repeatedly stressed the board should move forward quickly with the search process, but could not agree on how to do so.

Oppenheim said it might be more efficient for the board to work with the community instead of using a firm, arguing they would know what was best for the district.

“While yes, we want a full-time superintendent yesterday … we also don’t want to rush into making a decision that’s a poor decision for our students, for our educators, for our community,” he said. “And so it’s not the worst thing in the world to hold off on doing an RFP search until we understand more about what we want and what we need out of this whole process.”

Oppenheim’s motion for the community to take charge of the search process failed, which prompted Simm’s motion to keep Murray in place.

“We cannot sit in limbo,” Stutts Simms said, noting the decision has been in their purview since November. “I don’t care how much input we get, it is still on us. We have got to move this district forward.”

The board could revisit the idea of hiring a consultant at a future board meeting — the next one is scheduled for March 7.

“I still think frankly that we need a professional search firm to do this work,” Burt said after the vote. “But we shall move forward.”