Sullivan school board taps Qualls for director search

Rick Wagner • Feb 8, 2019 at 8:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Wayne Qualls will help choose Sullivan County’s next director of schools, the Board of Education decided unanimously during a Thursday meeting.


Qualls, the consultant and former Tennessee commissioner of education who helped Kingsport and Hawkins County get new school system heads, is to charge $6,000 for the search, half up-front and the rest at the completion of the search. However, BOE Chairman Michael Hughes said he wanted the board to decide among three to five finalists, which the board voted 7-0 to approve. The other choice was using the Tennessee School Boards Association at a cost of $6,500.

The names of finalists will become public when the board gets the list, per Tennessee law.

In addition, the BOE set up a timeline to have a new director hired by May 1, as proposed by Vice Chairman Randall Jones, although members said that if that is unreasonable, the system could appoint an interim before Director Evelyn Rafalowski retires at the end of June. 

The board scheduled a called work session for 4:30 p.m. Feb. 18 and a called meeting for 6 p.m. that day to work on a community input session March 5. Applications will be taken from March 11-April 9, board interviews of finalists will be April 22-26 and the hiring of the top choice will take place May 1.

“We might run somebody off,” BOE Attorney Pat Hull said of a consultant.

That’s when Hughes suggested an interim could be used if needed, a proposal that members Mark Ireson and Matthew Spivey put in a motion and seconded, respectively. All votes on the matter were 7-0, including a vote to increase the minimum years of administrative experience required of applicants from three years to 10. Being an assistant principal or principal would count toward those years, as would working in a central office.

Rafalowski has 25 years of experience in administration.

Hughes said he thought maybe seven years was enough because 10 might rule out some good candidates.

“It takes a world of knowledge. You’re not going to get that really fast,” Ireson said.

Rafalowski, when asked if she would have been ready to be director after seven years in administration, answered no.


The board voted 7-0 to approve a recommended video RFP (request for proposals) from Rafalowski, after she got feedback from the BOE at a Jan. 31 work session.

The plan is for the video of the school board meeting to be hosted live and then archived on the Sullivan County Schools website, not any other website nor put on Facebook Live. That way, she said, no advertising would be allowed. She added that some advertising might not be a good fit for the school system.

The RFP also is to include only live and archived video of the BOE’s actual meetings, not work sessions.


— The BOE approved on the first of two readings a policy change not limiting college level credits earned by high school juniors and seniors to four. Rafalowski said some students have earned up to 27 credits and that through Gov. Bill Lee’s new GIVE Act, which stands of Governor’s Initiative for Vocational Education, the state will pay for four college credits instead of the current two.

School system officials said high school students are on track to earn 3,500 hours of college credit this academic year.

— The board approved spending up to $500 to have title searches done on the old Holston Institute property adjoining Muddy Creek Road near Tri-Cities Airport.

A business has expressed interest in buying a portion of the property, but Hull said the school system has only two deeds involving the property, one from the late 1800s and the other from the early 1900s; that they appear to cover the same area but not the whole property; and they have reversion clauses. Hull said the clauses say if the property is no longer used for education purposes, it would revert to the descendants of the Crawford family that donated the land.



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