Superintendent needs opportunity to make key hires
By the time a school principal is hired in Charleston County, there are plenty of fingerprints on the contract.
A panel of school district employees and community members interviews candidates and assesses their professional histories. The panel makes recommendations to the superintendent, who chooses the one she thinks will be best suited for the job.
Next, the elected Charleston County School Board votes on her recommendation. It can approve it, or it can tell the superintendent to find someone else.
So while every principal appointment might not make every constituent happy, the process is sound.
That doesn’t mean every principal will be successful. The panel, the superintendent and the board all can make mistakes. And when they do, it is up to the superintendent and board to act quickly and decisively to effect a change.
The most recent controversy over a principal appointment concerns the new head of Northwoods Middle School. Dan Conner was recommended by Superintendent Nancy McGinley in June. The board turned down her request.
Then some members said they had changed their minds after getting more information and asked for it to be put back on the board’s agenda. Last week, the board approved Mr. Conner’s hiring.
The Rev. Joe Darby, vice president of the Charleston NAACP, called the board’s action “curious, ill-advised and troubling.”
It might be considered curious in that he was initially rejected before he was appointed.
But it would be difficult to suggest that the board was ill-advised. It heeded the advice of a panel of citizens and educators as well as Dr. McGinley, the district’s chief and the person to whom Mr. Conner will report. The school board reflected on the decision for weeks and felt strongly enough to resurrect the matter and change its decision.
Educators welcome community and parent involvement as key to schools’ success. Their input can bring an important perspective to the conversation. But the input is most welcome when it helps shape a decision rather than when it comes after the fact.
It is only fair that Dr. McGinley, who is in her position because of her knowledge and experience and who takes the blame when things don’t go well, is allowed to choose the members of her team. And principals are among the most important members of the team.
The board’s ability to reject or accept her recommendation is a healthy check, and one that the superintendent should welcome. The board could prevent her from making a costly mistake.
The superintendent answers to the board, and the board should answer to the voters. The community deserves honest information and should be confident that the board will make good decisions on their behalf.
As for now, Dan Conner is principal of Northwoods Middle School. He has the trust of Dr. McGinley and the board. He deserves the support of the school family and the community so he can do his best to guide the school to success.
After all, success is a goal everyone should be able to support.