School Board Hires Rhea County’s Shane Johnson To Fill Director Of Schools Position

The Jefferson County School Board offered the position of Director of Jefferson County Schools to Shane Johnston of Rhea County, following interview with three candidate finalist Monday, April 2, 2018. Finalist interviews started at five pm with Mark Garrett, a Jefferson County native and community favorite for the position. All finalist were allocated one hour to interview with each given a five minute introduction and closing.

Garrett, a sitting Superintendent with five years experience in the North Carolina system and 14 years in Administration was the only finalist that filled the hour with response, fielding questions from years experience developing a system wide budget (5) to questions regarding safe schools, CTE, failing schools and rezoning. While most Board Member remained consistent in their question subject matter, slight changes were made to accommodate experience level between the applicants. Board Member Bill Jarnigan’s questions for Garrett were more pointed and personal in nature, first asking why Garrett did not provide local references and later questioning if the community of Talbott favored Garrett getting a position for principal that he had applied for early in his career in Jefferson County. Garrett stated that he included references that were from his most recent work history, which was 17 years in North Carolina, and that he is known locally so personal references would be easy to come by in the community. Further, he said that he did feel that the community was supportive of his early effort to become principal at Talbott. In response to a question from Board Member Vines regarding the $125,000 salary and if Garrett would commit tonight, he stated that he would have to discuss any offer with his wife and family but that he was aware of the salary level before making application, though the benefit package had not been discussed.

Second to interview was Shane Johnston, Assistant Director of Schools for Rhea County with two years in that position and 7 years as principal. Johnston had previously made the short list for the Director of Schools of Hamblen County though the Board ultimately hired a candidate with director and budget experience. He was the early favorite of much of the Jefferson County Central Office. Johnston fielded many of the same questions as Garrett, including years of system wide budgeting experience ( none but has assisted in two budget creation), safe schools, failing schools and rezoning. Johnston often referred to the Central Office employees, who were in attendance in the audience, as a help guide for administrating the system. He has a Doctorate of Ministry and included several references to values in answering the Board’s questions, though he noted that he could uphold the separation of church and state. In regard to Vine’s question about salary and the ability to commit, Johnston said that unless a burning bush were to speak to him on the way home and council against he would accept the offer.

The final candidate for the directorship was Michael Steele of Nashville. He is the Principal at Stratford Magnet School and has eight years experience as principal. Because Steele has no administrative experience, the budgeting question was amended to school level budget preparation. While he answered many of the same questions as the other two finalist, most answers were in relation to school level administration. As a former Marine and Police Officer, Steele gave in depth answers regarding school safety. He also spoke about graduation rates and personal involvement with students. When asked if he could commit to the salary and position, Steele replied that he could commit immediately.

Board Members ranked the finalists in preference with #1 being their choice for Director of Jefferson County Schools. Four Board Members ranked Johnston #1. Two Board Members ranked Garrett #1 and One Board Member ranked Steele #1. Second place for the directorship was Steele with four #2 rankings ( Johnston received three #2 rankings and Garrett received none). The Jefferson County Board of School Commissioners called meeting came to order and Maurice Solomon made the motion to offer Johnston the position of Director of Jefferson County Schools. He was 2nd by Jarnigan and the motion passed 6-1 with Bradley voting No.