published Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Rick Smith on fast track to be named Hamilton County Schools superintendent

by Adam Crisp
 Rick Smith may be named permanent superintendent.
Rick Smith may be named permanent superintendent.
Photo by Tim Barber /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Amendment to board policy
Amendment to board policy

Hamilton County school board members will vote tonight on whether to change policy and pave the way for longtime education administrator Rick Smith to be named permanent superintendent.

Last month, board members voted to make Smith interim superintendent after buying out the contract of Superintendent Jim Scales. Smith, who served as deputy superintendent until Scales’ departure, took over the top job temporarily effective June 10.

Tonight, board members Mike Evatt and Joe Galloway will present an amendment to the board’s policy to allow for a speedy 15-day notice in advance of naming a new superintendent. They also propose deleting a provision that encourages, but does not require, a unanimous vote on hiring a new superintendent.

As it stands now, board policy calls for a more lengthy selection process with public involvement and interviews and including the freedom for the board to hire an outside search firm. The policy does not cite a specific time frame.

Board policies also encourage the interim candidate to not be named as a permanent superintendent, and it states that a doctoral degree is preferred, but there is no explicit requirement.

Smith, though he has 30 years of education experience, holds only a master’s degree.

“I’m ready to move on,” said Evatt. “We need to move on with our school system and get this behind us.”

In May, the board voted 6-3 to offer Scales roughly $300,000 in salary and benefits to leave a year before his contract was set to expire.

In 2006, when Scales was hired, Smith was briefly a candidate for the job, but withdrew his name.

“I think we should do a national search,” said board member Linda Mosley, a Scales supporter. “We need to search everywhere, Hamilton County included, to find the best person.”

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce favors a national search, and last month its President and CEO Tom Edd Wilson wrote a letter to board members, asking them to cast a wide net as they looked for a new leader.

Is Rick Smith a good choice for school superintendent?

Mosley said she hears the same sentiment from the business community.

“We live in a world that is changing daily,” said Mosley, an executive at Regions Bank. “We need a progressive leader who is going to be a step ahead.”

Evatt says a national search — the same kind that resulted in Scales’ selection in 2006 — is too expensive and flies in the face of what he thinks the public wants.

“Everywhere I go, people ask when we’re going to get a local superintendent,” Evatt said. “Before, it took months and cost at least $60,000, and there’s just no need for that. We have good, local people here.”

Contact staff writer Adam Crisp at or 423-757-6323. Follow him online: and

about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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rosebud said...

I learned more about Rick Smith in this Channel 3 story than anything I have read in the TFP.

June 14, 2011 at 7:30 a.m.

Thanks for that link, rosebud. We have yet to learn from any media source what Rick Smith's plans are to address the issues in Hamilton County schools. Personally, I don't care if he is local as long as he has a solid plan. Because none has been mentioned (that I can find), I think the whole situation is suspect. Perhaps Rick Smith will do a great job. I fear that promoting someone who has been part of this ailing system for so long will only serve to maintain the status quo.

June 14, 2011 at 8:04 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Cronyism at its worst. It will not change until the public decides enough is enough.

June 14, 2011 at 8:04 a.m.
Humphrey said...

disgusting cronyism. They are not even embarrassed to come right out and flaunt it. The are proud of themselves. And some folks will sop it right up too. Pitiful.

June 14, 2011 at 8:23 a.m.
rosebud said...

Well according to the WRCB article, he's going to reorganize the central office, name new principals, keep a closer eye on principals, study whether to close schools and rezone students, mend some political fences, be more visible in the community, and continue the programs to improve inner-city schools. Sounds like a pretty good agenda for the first day on the job. Way ahead of stumblin' Scales, who had no agenda after 5 years. I'd say give him another day or two, and he might "address more issues."

June 14, 2011 at 8:54 a.m.

Mr. Scales was planning to reorganize the central office, was investigating rezoning, and was continuing plans to improve inner-city schools. With some minor exceptions, Smith's current "agenda" is more of the same, rosebud. Don't get me wrong, I'm no fan of Dr. Scales, but I am suspicious of the rush to promote Mr. Smith and do away with a wider search. If he is the best candidate, then by all means, he should be installed as Superintendent, but changing policies to push him through smacks of political cronyism.

I'm all for hearing his solutions for improving education. What will he do to improve teacher morale? What is his stance on charter schools? I would love to giving him a couple days to "address more issues;" however, since the school board is seeking to push his promotion through without due diligence, a couple of days is too long to wait.

June 14, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
johnsonmari said...

What is the fear of a national search for the best candidate?

June 14, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.
Selah said...

Iam also suspicous of the rush to promote someone who has been in the local schools for close to 30 years yet we hear of no solid accomplishments he has achieved in his 28yr tenure. Sounds like it will be more of the same with his control coming from the "good ole boys" once again. Notice Mr. Smith said nothing about the good of the "kids" in any of his interviews. Isn't that interesting??? Education is about the kids and not the adults. I hope we do not see a personal agenda against adults and critics carried out with the full support of the school board backers and county commission. I bet he will get anything he asks for now...and they will make it look successful...Let's watch this closely...Let's remember this at the POLL...We must begin to rally and speak at the POLLS...they've figured out the power by getting Smith backers voted in at the school board when we were sleeping. When will we take back our power as middle-class citizens? We are allowing a few to make decisions for the majority that will only benefit the "few"??? I haven't heard anyone say they did not want the best candidate by way of possibly a nationwide search except through boardmember Testerman. My inner circle is troubled by these mafia tactics and still see the schools that our kids attend and our inner circle families attend as mediocre and/or failing. Wake up Chattanooga, Wake up!!! Let's take our rights back at the POLLS...and teachers speak up by taking your God giving work rights back by speaking at the POLLS!!! All these faces you see now remember the decisions they've made for you...and anyone who loves freedom will SPEAK AT THE POLLS OR LOSE YOUR RIGHTS TO THE "FEW" WHO ARE ATTEMPTING TO CONTROL THE CITY AND WEALTH

June 14, 2011 at 1:46 p.m.
rosebud said...

Here you go Selah. If you read the WRCB article, you can find what you said was missing. "the only thing I see around here (at Central Office) is everyone wanting to work together for all children."

June 14, 2011 at 2:18 p.m.
chet123 said...

Rick Smith???? This is RED NECK AFFIRMATIVE ACTION AT WORK LOL LOL LOL...the man is under qualified LOL LOL LOL...and Rhonda Thurman a Hairdresser is pushing her boyfriend in regardless of all his short coming....When the public wake up to whats going on it will be HELL IN HAMITON COUNTY LOL LOL LOL I SAW THIS COMING IN MY OLD POSTING...THIS IS NOT A NEW SCRIPT LOL LOL...TALIKING ABOUT QUID PRO QUO..LOL LOL LOL LOL

June 14, 2011 at 3:37 p.m.
chet123 said...


June 14, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.
chet123 said...


June 14, 2011 at 3:51 p.m.
Leaf said...

Good ole boys taking care of their own is all this is. Pathetic.

June 14, 2011 at 4:16 p.m.
Selah said...

And Rosebud...I hear the politics in the statement you said was posted on WRCB which I've listen to and read several times. BUT again WHERE IS THE EVIDENCE, WHERE ARE THE SPECIFICS...sometimes we just know how to say the right things...but where is the substance.......SEE YOU AT THE POLLS EVERYTIME

June 14, 2011 at 5:10 p.m.

What does "reorganize the central office" mean? I can reorganize my desk by putting a stack of papers in a drawer when what I should do is go through them, filing necessary papers and shredding others.

What, in Mr. Smith's view, does "keep[ing] a closer eye on principals" entail? Will he be a micro-manager or will he just have frequent check-ins with principals? Will principals be held more accountable under Mr. Smith's administration? How? The WRCB article also states that he "want[s] 75 effective leaders in our schools." What constitutes an effective leader to Mr. Smith? Will he afford principals the autonomy to make appropriate decisions, or does an "effective leader" simply do what Mr. Smith says? What will Mr. Smith do to ensure higher standards in our schools? What about funding for sports, arts, electives?

Everyone wants what is best for students, but we may have different opinions of what best means. I don't want to hear that he is working for kids. I want to know, specifically, how he means to do so. To me, these are the important issues that have not been covered in local media. We have heard the buzzwords, but I am interested in the substance behind the facade.

June 14, 2011 at 8:02 p.m.
rosebud said...

Let's see, you want substance? And you think Jim Scales had substance? Wow, I must have missed something. In every media opinion poll, Scales had an approval rating of about 20 percent (around the same as Jesse $$$ Register). The only reason Scales was able to keep his job as long as he did (remember the sneaky contract extension?) was sticky-fingered Janice Boydston, of Walmart shoplifting fame. Thanks to an eagle-eyed security officer, her career of pocketing tax dollars finally came to an end, and with it, Scales' narrow majority on the School Board.

What will Rick Smith do? Who knows, he's never had the opportunity before. But at least he knows Brainerd from Birchwood, which took Scales about 3 years to figure out.

June 14, 2011 at 8:35 p.m.
Selah said...

Good ole boys done it again...Let's watch this closely...stay tuned Rosebud...

June 15, 2011 at 1:13 a.m.

Rosebud, I know that you are a vehement supporter of Mr. Smith. Please understand that because I question his plans for or ability to perform the superintendent's job, I am not giving my support to Dr. Scales or the backroom politics that kept him in office. It also doesn't mean that Mr. Smith will not do a great job or that he is not a good candidate. This issue is not so easily defined by labels like right and wrong. I understand that he has been "held back" for so long. I simply want to know what he would like to do. What is his vision for the district and how does he mean to achieve that vision?

Looked at objectively, it is not difficult to draw parallels between the brand of backroom politics which sneaked through Dr. Scales' contract extension and that which orchestrated his ouster. The alteration of the rules in order to ease Mr. Smith's installment as Superintendent will come back to haunt us. Such changes to favor one political faction always draw the ire of that same political faction when, inevitably, they are used by another.

The underhanded actions of the former board led to a rift that is harmful to students. The actions of the current board only serve to perpetuate the rift, and perhaps make it worse.

June 15, 2011 at 8:52 a.m.
Selah said...

Well said Somethingorother...thinks for bringing the discussion back to the basics instead of namecalling and racist comments...Timbo the Race Card is live and well...I just b/c I call it like it is do not think I am not WHITE...keep guessing Timbo...

June 16, 2011 at 4:42 p.m.
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