Lisa Norris picked for director’s job after short search

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South Carroll Special School District

THE INTERVIEW – Lisa Norris (standing, at left) speaks to the South Carroll Board of Education, school staff, and local residents on June 14 in the old Clarksburg School gym during her interview for the district director job. Norris was ultimately picked by the board to fill that position.

Members of the South Carroll Board of Education met three times last week in an effort to fill the position of former Director of Schools Lex Suite, who was demoted by the board during the June 9 regular board meeting.

And, all things considered, the board made relatively short work of the task, choosing Lisa Norris of McKenzie as the school district’s new director during a called meeting Saturday morning, June 18.

At the June 9 meeting, the board initially decided to appoint an interim director and then start the search for a full director, but during a called meeting on Tuesday, June 14, the board opted to skip the interim thing and just go for choosing a full contracted director as soon as possible.

Online advertisements for applications were put on various websites, and four candidates responded, including Norris, Danny Leisure, Jason Morris, and Tim Stratton. All four were interviewed by the board and a panel of school staff members in front of an audience of local residents in the old school gym immediately before another called meeting on Thursday, June 16.

Norris was the last to be interviewed, and while detailing her experience and credentials, she pointed out that she is a graduate of McKenzie High School, holds a doctorate in education from Bethel University, was instrumental in starting up Carroll Academy, has served as an elected member of the McKenzie Board of Education, and has extensive experience in the field of law enforcement. Most recently, she has been teaching criminal justice at the Carroll County Technical Center for the past five years. She also teaches dual enrollment courses in criminal justice through Bethel.

Norris touted her considerable experience and success in writing and receiving grants, with $11.5 million in grants written and submitted by her being approved throughout her career.

And that experience in acquiring funding through grants proved to be a big selling point for board members as they gathered Saturday morning in the Clarksburg School library, along with about two dozen district residents.

To get things started, board chairman Corey Bartholomew had each board member name their top two picks from among the four candidates, and the names that came up the most were Norris and Leisure, who has served in school administrative positions in Henderson and Crockett Counties and currently teaches at Toone Elementary School in Hardeman County.

After narrowing it down to those two, board members went into extensive discussions about what they felt to be Norris’ and Leisure’s biggest strengths, also taking comments and suggestions from citizens. Some commented that Leisure would be better at building up the school’s sports programs, which they said would attract more students, while others said that Norris would be better as a fiscal manager and better at bringing new funding into the school system, which would boost all of its programs, both athletic and academic.

At one point, board member Donna McDaniel-Cox made a motion to offer the position to Norris. The motion almost died for lack of a second, but after some more discussion, board member Christy Blount seconded that motion. Board members Bartholomew, McDaniel-Cox, Blount, and Nick Cobb all voted in favor of the motion, and board member Tom Miller voted against it.

After the vote, the board generally decided to offer Norris a one-year contract within a pre-agreed range of $80,000 to $90,000, starting at the low end. Bartholomew paused the meeting to go contact Norris regarding the board’s decision, and when he returned, he said that Norris had accepted the position for $80,000 annually on a one-year contract.

Finally, the board voted unanimously to approve that contract before adjourning.

Some attending citizens thanked the board members for all their efforts to make a tough decision in a difficult situation.

Suite was hired on as South Carroll’s director back in June of 2020 on a $90,000 annual salary following the retirement of former director Dr. Tony Tucker.

David Huss was the board’s first pick to replace Tucker, but Suite was chosen after Huss opted to withdraw his bid for the job.

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