As you've probably heard by now, the Hamilton County School Board will vote on Superintendent Rick Smith's request for a buyout March 7. Whether the school board agrees to the buyout or not, Smith's time as superintendent is essentially over, as he has requested (through his attorney) to be placed on paid leave through June 30.
Smith's departure means that, once again, the school board will have to find a new superintendent sooner than it had planned or wanted. And though the selection process has yet to begin, I'd like to nominate someone: WRCB co-anchor and "School Patrol" reporter David Carroll.
Many in the community would likely agree that there is something slightly off with our superintendent recruitment and retention efforts. We could stand to shake things up a bit. We would do well to explore new avenues in our search for candidates, while at the same time looking for someone with a solid knowledge of the school system.
I propose that Carroll is that candidate.
Board member Karitsa Mosley said the school board needs to "regain the trust of our community." Well, a Carroll-led school system could go a long way toward doing just that.
While Hamilton County School Board member Joe Galloway and others want Smith to stay because of his immense knowledge of the school system, Carroll has become an expert on local schools in his own right.
He is a respected newsman who has covered the school system for decades and won multiple awards for his work. He has become the community's go-to guy when it comes to what's going on in local schools, informing the public about the school system's triumphs and struggles without favoritism or malice, and he's done it without any influence from any good-ol'-boy network. And as someone who is used to getting information out to viewers as quickly as possible, Carroll would likely not wait 20 days before addressing the public (like Smith did) should another horrible incident like the Gatlinburg assault ever take place.
Although Carroll is not an educator by trade, we could learn a lot from his insights—insights gathered from decades of interacting with students, parents, teachers and administrators.
In addition to his work as a co-anchor and reporter, Carroll regularly shares his thoughts on his blog and on social media. In a recent blog post, he proposed some out-of-the box ideas for fixing what ails the school system, including a (very appealing to this writer) proposal to break up our massive, 75-school, 43,000-student system into smaller, community-based "mini-districts," which could each have their own leadership. Carroll said such a setup might lead to schools receiving more and better attention from the state and/or civic leaders, as well as better involvement from parents.
If Carroll did, indeed, become superintendent—and if an idea like his did became a reality—Hamilton County might decide that it no longer even needed a superintendent. If that happened, Carroll would likely support the elimination of his very own position—without a buyout or controversy—because it was in the students' best interests. Because that's who he is.
As far as I know, Carroll has no interest in becoming the next superintendent. Other than exchanging a few messages online over the years, we've never actually met. I did run my idea by him, however, and although he said he was flattered by my suggestion, he was insistent that he wasn't qualified.
Perhaps the qualifications could be changed.
Former Chattanooga Pulse Editor Bill Colrus writes about (in no particular order) local news, culture, music and media. You can find him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.