The County School Board voted Monday to hire the same firm that brought Supt. Bryan Johnson to Chattanooga to help pick his successor.
The board vote 7-2 to hire Buffkin/Baker for the search. It had a $63,000 price tag for a full search, and also offered to vet candidates at $2,000 per candidate. The charge for candidates not making it past the initial step would be $500.
There was a 4-4 vote on proceeding with the latter $2,000/$500 vetting option with Rhonda Thurman abstaining. Ms. Thurman, who had not wanted any kind of search after earlier endorsing deputy superintendent Justin Robertson, then switched her vote to yes "to move the process along."
Also voting yes were Joe Smith, Joe Wingate, James Walker and Tucker McClendon.
Opposed were Jenny Hill, Tiffanie Roberson, Karitsa Jones and Marco Perez.
Both internal and external candidates will be welcome to apply.
There were two other search firms who made presentations. McPherson Jacobson LLC wanted $20,100 for an internal search and $50,000 for a formal search. Ray and Associates asked a base $12,000.
Buffkin/Baker representative Ken Carrick will again handle the search.
Mr. Smith said of the option offered by Mr. Carrick on the vetting, "I bet he knows we've got a very qualified internal candidate."
Ms. Robinson said, "I didn't get the memo" on the internal candidate. She said she wanted a full process to select the best choice and said she did not want to get involved with going through resumes.
She said the vetting process with the schools making a superintendent posting "may not bring in the best candidates. I don't think Bryan Johnson would have applied under this option. We did it right last time. I want to knock it out of the park again. I want an All Star."
Ms. Hill said the next leader needed to be ready for bold new initiatives beyond those crafted by Supt. Johnson and the board. She said of a speedy process outlined by board attorney Scott Bennett, "Are we going to have a superintendent by Friday?" She said it sounded like "we just add hot water and stir."
Mr. McClendon said the school posting would get just as many contenders as that "by a fancy search firm."
Ms. Thurman said superintendent candidates "already know that this job is open. I call it the Superintendent Shuffle."
She said, "I have questions about a superintendent who would leave his school this time of the year."
Ms. Jones said the board should pay attention to those within the system who have come up through the ranks, saying there are "some amazing local candidates.".
Ms. Thurman said if the board could not find a top-notch local candidate "then shame on us."
She said Dr. Johnson "didn't walk in here on water, and he didn't walk out on water. He walked out on us. He showed no loyalty to the students or to Hamilton County."