Brow-raising hire

Published 10:20 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012

There are few decisions a school board can make that are as important as hiring a new superintendent.

Last week, the Southampton County School Board hired a replacement for Superintendent Charles Turner, who is retiring after leading the school system for 13 years.

After looking at 18 or 19 candidates, the school board unanimously voted to hire Dr. Alvera Parrish, whose is superintendent of Petersburg City Public Schools.

We sincerely hope the board’s decision is a good one. Parrish will have few rooting for her success more enthusiastically than those of us at this newspaper.

Yet, her hiring does raise a couple of points. First, we find it curious that Southampton, which ranks in the lower echelons statewide when it comes to standardized test results, would hire someone from a school system whose performance lags behind Southampton’s and is near dead last in the state.

Quite frankly, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Parrish’s employer was revealed. Petersburg’s schools are operating under a memorandum of understanding with the state Department of Education and has struggling mightily for reasons that precede Parrish’s two-year tenure as the city’s leading educator.

Yet, some early reports based on inquiries indicate that Parrish was beginning to turn things around. We hope those impressions are accurate, and more importantly, that Southampton County’s schools flourish under her guidance.

The second issue this hiring raises is the lack of transparency on the part of the school board during the hiring process. After what appeared to be a promising start, having solicited public input on the characteristics desired in a new superintendent, the board offered little insight or opportunity for stakeholder input during the rest of the selection process.

It is understandable that the names and resumes were not released to the public, as there are confidentiality issues. However, following the lead of Paul D Camp Community College, which invited its final three candidates for president to town for a brief, getting-to-know-you before the final hiring, would have made for a more thorough vetting process.

For those truly concerned with the final outcome, it was a model we wish the decision-makers in Southampton had followed more closely.