Despite pressure for a unified front, Wake County school board members Deborah Prickett and John Tedesco said they felt they had to vote no on hiring Jim Merrill to be the new superintendent.
As noted in today's article, both board members said they felt that Ann Clark, the deputy superintendent for Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, was the better choice than Merrill, the superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools and a former Wake administrator.
As has occurred for the prior two superintendent hires, board members felt the need to vote no while still saying they'd support the new schools chief.
Prickett opened by saying that Merrill was "very qualified" to be superintendent and that she welcomed his return. But she didn't feel he was better than Clark.
“At this time in Wake County history, I really felt like it was time to hire our first female superintendent," Prickett said. "I think Ann Clark would have really been the person maybe to bring us forward and to maybe accomplish some of our achievement goals.
She was just the person that I felt that we needed at this particular time. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I will certainly work with Dr. Merrill and I think he’ll be a fine superintendent.”
Tedesco fired some jabbed at his colleagues as he explained his no vote.
"As we looked at three highly qualified educators, I saw one candidate emerge with a combination of skills, experience, breadth and depth that’s really needed for this role in my view," Tedesco said. "Ann Clark is one of the finest educators I have ever met.
She was a bus driver, a special-ed teacher, a nationally recognized principal of the year and chief academic officer and deputy superintendent spanning 30 years in the most comparable district to Wake County in the nation. She had had national success in achievement goals for all students, particularly our most vulnerable students.
I truly in my heart of hearts believe she was the best candidate to bring our board together, inspire our community and lead our students to new heights. She desired to set a north star towards all we can be. At this point I am deeply concerned that some have such a strong desire to turn to all they perceive we once were in Wake that they are missing out on an opportunity to be all that we can become. So my vote is and remains for Ann Clark and for all that Wake County can become.”
None of the board members who backed Merrill gave their reasons at the board table.
“While I respect the differing opinions, it was my hope that we would have a unified front and a unanimous vote for whichever candidate we chose," said school board chairman Keith Sutton. "I hope inspite of what appeared to be two dissenting votes that the two of you will jump behind and support our new superintendent.”
In a press conference after the vote, Merrill said he respected their right to vote against hiring him.