Jonathan Craft, chief financial officer for the Limestone school system, is the top selection for the same position with Hartselle City Schools in Morgan County after a candidate from Fairfield declined Hartselle’s offer in early August.
Dr. Paul “Vic” Wilson, hired in July as the new Hartselle superintendent, said Friday the school board voted unanimously during a special meeting Thursday to offer the job to Craft, Limestone’s school finance chief for the past 11 years.
“I think he’s going to be a great (CFO). He’s very knowledgeable, and I’m hoping contract negotiations go well,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the board is negotiating the terms of a 3-year contract, and Craft, 35, said Friday he intends to accept the job pending contract negotiations.
“I’ve had 11 years, and it was good working here. I’m leaving with mixed emotions but it’s an exciting opportunity,” said Craft, who has enjoyed an easygoing camaraderie with his central office colleagues.
The Hartselle Board of Education offered its top finance post to Maria Glover of Fairfield City Schools in July, but she decided instead to take a counteroffer to remain with Fairfield. Wilson announced Glover’s decision during Thursday’s board meeting, and he said the board unanimously approved offering the position to Craft.
Filing the CFO vacancy
Hartselle narrowed its winding search for a CFO in early June when the school board chose Glover, Craft and Tina Parris of Talladega Schools as final candidates. The Alabama Association of School Boards, hired by the board for $5,000 as a search consultant, selected five different finalists in March. School officials said the June candidates differed from those in March because they wanted to broaden the CFO search.
The board in May discussed bringing on Hartselle resident John Higginbotham, but he accepted a raise to stay at Huntsville Hospital, where he works as a decision support specialist and analyst.
Hartselle is trying to fill the vacancy left by Sarita Tapscott, who made $77,040 as the system’s CFO. She was hired Jan. 22 for the same job with Alabaster City Schools at a $92,000 salary for three years.
Craft, whose current salary is $83,499, has served as Limestone CFO since 2002. The same position at Hartselle was listed with a salary range of $74,000 to $94,000 based on experience, according to Hartselle school officials.
The Hartselle school board approved in May a contract with Finatra in Athens for Lisa McMurray to serve as interim finance chief for the school system. McMurray, who is retired and did not apply for the permanent position, previously served as interim CFO for Madison City Schools.
Limestone Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk said Friday that it could take 30 to 45 days to find a CFO replacement. Sisk, who described Craft as “a fine gentleman and a hard worker,” cautioned it is not uncommon for school boards to offer a position to candidates that receive a counteroffer or take a different job. He said city school systems have a bigger tax base that allows them to typically pay higher salaries than county systems.
“Jonathan should not be considered a third-choice candidate because he is a great CFO. We just came off a good audit, and he will do a good job in Hartselle,” Sisk said. “The new budget is already well on its way, and I’m hoping he’ll be bringing a couple of things to a close before he leaves.”
Craft confirmed he plans to stay past his 2-week notice to assist with the Limestone system’s new budget, with a budget hearing scheduled Aug. 20. School systems start the new fiscal year Oct. 1.
“We’re at the point in the budget where it would be difficult for someone to walk in and finish, and I feel like it’s in (the system’s) best interest and my best interest to stay a little longer,” said Craft, who managed an $80.3 million operating budget in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30. “It’s only fair because I would want the same if I was coming into a new system with the same situation.”
The Hartselle school board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12, at 305 College St. NE, Hartselle, while the Limestone school board will hold a work session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, at the central office on South Jefferson Street to discuss hiring a new CFO.