Sullivan school board names director finalists; vote to come Wednesday

Rick Wagner • May 1, 2019 at 3:58 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — A local school board plans to interview finalists for the director of schools one day and choose one to hire the next.

The three candidates to become the next Sullivan County superintendent have strong Tri-Cities ties and will be interviewed by the Board of Education Tuesday, with a vote set for Wednesday to choose a new director. 

The finalists, announced Wednesday afternoon, are Corey Gardenhour, director of Elizabethton City Schools; Patrick Fraley, principal at Greeneville High School and recently a finalist for Hawkins County director; and David Cox, a former teacher in Hawkins County and director of Alleghany County Public Schools in Cumberland, Md. Cox and Gardenhour also taught in Kingsport City Schools, and Fraley in Sullivan County Schools.

The three, all of whom attended local colleges, were chosen with the help of consultant Wayne Qualls, who Friday conferred with school board members individually to get their input as to which candidates were favored for interviews by at least four of the seven members.

Evelyn Rafalowski, who after four years is retiring as director at the end of June, has spent nearly 42 years with Sullivan County Schools.


The interviews, open to the public, will be in the first-floor meeting room of the health and education building, 154 Blountville Bypass. Gardenhour will appear from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Fraley from 5:45 to 6:45 and Cox from 8 to 9. Qualls said the order was chosen randomly and that he will ask the questions, per the board’s request, to let the board concentrate fully on the answers. He said the interviews will be strictly limited to 60 minutes each.

“They thought they could listen a lot better (if someone else asked the questions), which is what was suggested to me,” Qualls said, adding that he asked questions of the two finalists for Hawkins County’s school board late last year. Qualls said he will not attend the Wednesday meeting for the vote.

“They’re going to have to answer questions pretty succinctly,” Qualls said of the May 7 meeting. “All three of these guys have really good credentials.” 

Then, at 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 8, the BOE will hold its regular monthly meeting with the selection of a new director to be included on the agenda.The board will have no work session prior to either meeting.


Gardenhour has been director in Elizabethton the past four years and worked in the central office there from 2009 to 2015 in various positions. Before that, he was principal at West Side Elementary in Elizabethton from 2006 to 2008 and taught in Kingsport City Schools from 1999 to 2006 and Johnson City Schools from 1998 to 1999 in various grade levels.

He has a bachelor’s of science in biology and chemistry from Milligan College, a master’s in education from Milligan, an educational specialist degree in administration and supervision from Lincoln Memorial University and a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from East Tennessee State University.

Fraley has been principal at Greeneville since May 2012, and before that he was principal of Cherokee High from 2008 to 2012. He worked as a coordinator in the central office in 2007 and 2008 and was assistant principal at Cherokee from 2002 to 2007. Before that, he was a social studies teacher and head football coach at Sullivan South from 1999 to 2002 and a social studies teacher and assistant football and head track coach at South from 1997 to 1999. He also was a teacher and coach at Colonial Heights Middle and Volunteer High School. Before that, he worked at Tennessee Wesleyan College, now a university, from 1989 to 1992.

He has a bachelor’s of science in secondary education in social studies from Tennessee Wesleyan, a master’s of arts in education with a K-12 concentration from Tusculum College and an education specialist degree in education administration and supervision from Lincoln Memorial.

Cox has been superintendent in Alleghany County since 2009 and was superintendent of Culpepper County Public Schools from 2001 to 2009 and Pulaski County Public Schools from 1999 to 2001. He also worked in Unified School District 443 in Dodge City, Kansas, as assistant superintendent and elementary principal and was interim assistant band director in Kingsport City Schools in 1993-94. Before that, he was an assistant principal at Church Hill Middle School from 1989 to 1993, assistant director and then director of bands at Cherokee High from 1985 to 1989 and director of choral music at Appomattox County Public Schools from 1984-85.

He earned his bachelor’s in music education at ETSU in 1984, his master’s in education in supervision and administration in 1987 and his doctorate of education in educational leadership in 1994.


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