After months of deliberation, the Jackson Public School District has decided on a new leader.
On Tuesday the Board of Trustees approved a resolution to name Errick Greene as the new superintendent, replacing interim leader Freddrick Murray.
Greene serves as chief of schools for Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma, and previously worked districts in Detroit, Baltimore, and Inglewood, Calif. Greene was also a 10-year principal and later an instructional superintendent in the District of Columbia Public Schools.
“We are very confident that Dr. Greene has the experience, the skills, the dispositions and the heart and the courage to join us here in this effort,” board president Jeanne Middleton Hairston told reporters.
The confirmation is not official until the board mails appointment paperwork to the Mississippi Department of Education so that officials can verify Greene meets state requirements to serve as a public school superintendent and issue him a Mississippi administrator’s license. Hairston said if that goes according to plan, they hope to have Greene in Jackson starting in September.
Greene beat out Kenneth Simington, deputy superintendent of the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School District in North Carolina and Dana Bedden, chief executive officer of Bedden and Associates in Richmond, Va.
If approved by MDE, Greene steps into the role during an important period — the district is currently navigating its way to clearance from a scathing audit which last summer found JPS in violation of 24 of 32 state accreditation standards.
That audit almost led to a state takeover, but instead, the City of Jackson, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Gov. Phil Bryant’s office unveiled the Better Together Commission, a partnership created to address the district’s issues this year.
At the school board meeting Tuesday night before a decision was announced, Sen. Sollie Norwood, D-Jackson urged members to delay naming a superintendent until next summer. Bringing in a new leader when the school year has already begun would be disruptive to students and administrators, he said.
“I think Jackson Public Schools, this is probably one of our greatest opportunities to get this thing right,” Norwood said. “If we fail this time unfortunately I think it’s going to be a nail in our coffin.”
The district paid Nebraska search firm McPherson Jacobson $24,900 to lead the search, and the contract with the company guarantees the new superintendent will remain with the district for at least two years.
“We all as board members took the information that we received from our search consultants and then we each probed further and dug a little more deeply and we feel good about his (Greene’s) work in Tulsa,” Hairston said.
The board failed to meet its self-imposed July 1 deadline to have a new leader in place, but board members spent that time seeking an opinion from the attorney general’s office to look into the final three candidates to ensure they were adequately qualified for the position according to state law.
Murray, the interim superintendent, stepped into the role after Cedrick Gray resigned in 2016. At the time Gray resigned, he was paid $195,000 of a $205,000 contract.
Hairston said the board will work out a salary with Greene after MDE approves the appointment paperwork. Murray’s contract was extended past July 1, but originally listed him as earning $200,000 a year.
Throughout the search process, district officials and school board members said they wanted to involve the community in some decision-making efforts.
JPS parent Michelle Henry she felt the process was “intentionally inclusive.”
Henry participated on the interview panels for the candidates. All three candidates travelled to Jackson for a series of interviews with the board and different groups in early June. Henry was part of the panel of parents to interview the candidates.
“The school board is making every attempt to include the community in the decision-making process, which is something that they really don’t have to do,” said Henry, who is also vice president of the middle school division of the Jackson Council PTA.