PHOTO: The school board, chaired by Gary Anderson (right), voted 12-0 to enter negotiations with interim Superintendent Jason Golden to eventually become permanent in the position. / Photos by John McBryde
By JOHN McBRYDE
As expected, and despite some pushback from a few corners of the public arena, members of the Williamson County Schools Board of Education voted 12-0 Monday night to enter into negotiations with Deputy Superintendent Jason Golden to take over as superintendent for the departed Mike Looney.
Golden, who began his work in WCS in April 2006 and has served as deputy since July 2012, is now officially interim superintendent to fill in as Looney leaves for his new job as superintendent for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta. Golden was given the nod for negotiations to begin during Thursday’s work session, when results from a community survey sent by the district seemed to be in line with most of Golden’s qualifications.
“[Golden] has an understanding of educators and administrators because he makes the effort to do so,” said Fourth District member Brad Fiscus, who joined 11 other members in voicing support for Golden. “He’s an outstanding person, an outstanding listener, an outstanding strategist and an outstanding leader. I fully support Jason as our next superintendent and I’m excited about us moving forward to this new period.”
Ironically, it was Golden who reminded board members that the vote Monday night wasn’t to hire him but merely to start negotiations. Golden serves as general counsel for the district.
“Because I am a lawyer, I did want to mention that you’re not voting to hire me today, you’re voting to enter into a discussion,” he said. “You’re going to make the hiring decision later.”
Golden’s lack of experience in the classroom or as a principal seems to be what concerns critics the most. Three speakers during public comments at Monday’s meeting brought this up, and also questioned why a more formal job search wasn’t being implemented and other candidates weren’t being interviewed. Many districts will do a national search that is spearheaded by consultants and give the process more time and scrutiny.
Some of the board members said they were hearing the same concerns from constituents.
“We don’t make these kind of decisions casually,” Third District member Eliot Mitchell said. “We don’t come to this choice without some deliberate consideration every one of us has done. If I felt like a national search was the right thing to do, I would have no hesitation to make that motion, call for it and advocate for it.
“But you go after a national search when you do not have an internal slate of candidates that are strong. That’s the reason you would want to go outside your own organization. We have a very strong staff, and the internal option is the right choice for this district at this time.
“Jason has all the qualities that I, as an elected board member, am looking for in a leader and a superintendent. It’s a slam dunk from my standpoint.”
Meanwhile, Looney was wrapping up his final day on the job as WCS superintendent.
“It’s been an honor and a humbling experience to work in Williamson County for nearly 10 years,” Looney said. “We’ve accomplished a lot. It really wasn’t the work I did but the work done by the 6,000 employees we have. I’ve never strived to be a popular superintendent, I strived to be a superintendent that puts students first.”