Shaver explains Tupelo High School principal search process

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – It was in February that the search for a new high school principal picked up momentum, Superintendent Randy Shaver said Thursday.
That was when Shaver decided that the current principal, Lee Stratton, needed to be transferred to a new job within the district. The search ended this week with the selection of Chris Barnes of North Carolina as Stratton’s replacement, effective July 1. That was also the first time that Stratton’s reassignment was made public. Shaver said on Thursday that Stratton would remain a principal.
The change has generated protests from those who support Stratton, who has been with the district for 25 years, and who question how an outsider was brought in to replace a popular principal.
According to Shaver, Barnes was recommended by the national search firm Hazard, Young, Attea amp& Associates. The firm was used by the district last year in its principal search and in the superintendent search that brought Shaver to Tupelo.
Because the district last year hired Stratton, an internal candidate, instead of one provided by the firm, the principal search through HYA technically remained open. That search was reactivated in October when middle school Principal Linda Clifton announced her retirement.
The search then specified that it was looking for a “secondary school principal.”
“We made it a secondary search because we felt like we might have vacancies in the middle of the search,” Shaver said.
The district would have had the firm screen candidates even if there were no vacancies, Shaver said, because “it is always good to know who is out there who might be willing to serve the school system.”
Barnes was one of six candidates, including three internal hopefuls, interviewed for the job by an administrative committee that did not include Shaver. That committee recommended three candidates, including one internal person, to Shaver, who interviewed all three last week and recommended Barnes to the school board Tuesday.
Shaver said the other two finalists could be placed in other positions in the district.
Shaver and Barnes had worked together for one year when Shaver was principal of Western Guilford County High School and Barnes was an assistant principal at the school. The superintendent said he did not recommend Barnes to the search firm but made no apologies for hiring a candidate with whom he had previously worked.
“My job as the superintendent is to find the best person around for every school whether or not I knew him before and whether or not he was from North Carolina,” Shaver said.
“I also knew Lee Stratton before I interviewed him for the principal job. Anyone who is promoted was already known by the person who is interviewing him, and I don’t think that is any reason to exclude an outstanding person.”
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.