The pool of individuals eager to be the next superintendent of Limestone County Schools has been narrowed down to five, with a mayor, a retired director of operations and a university department head among the group.
Karen Delano of the Alabama Association of School Boards presented a brief description of each finalist to the Limestone County Board of Education during Tuesday's meeting. She said more than 30 people approached the board to show interest in the position, though only 25 were deemed viable candidates.
"Be proud of yourselves," Delano said. "You've got a lot of people who want to come work here."
Delano explained AASB used information from the community survey, board member discussions and deep background checks to determine the final five. In the case of at least one, the "thorough vetting" included contacting the candidate's college professors.
The five finalists, listed below, will be invited to spend a day in the district with part of the board before participating in a public interview and reception that evening. LCBOE Chairman Bret McGill said finalists will be treated to lunch and a "windshield tour" of the district, providing a chance for informal chat about district needs and expectations.
Delano presented a list of nearly 70 suggested interview questions for the finalists. She told members they could remove or add questions, then submit them to AASB. Once a final list of 12-15 questions is compiled, AASB recommends sending the list to each finalist, Delano said.
A location for the interviews has not been announced yet, but McGill said they are currently set to take place at 6 p.m. on the following days: Jan. 27-28 and 30; and Feb. 10-11. The board could vote to approve the new superintendent at its Feb. 18 meeting.
Here are the five individuals to be interviewed:
James W. Cantrell
Over the last 15 years, James W. Cantrell held multiple lead positions in education systems throughout Georgia. Most recently, Cantrell served as director of operations for Dade County Schools. Before that, he was the system's director of college and career education.
Cantrell also served as principal and CEO for Baldwin County (Georgia) Schools, director of pupil transportation for Barrow County Schools and director of operations for Elbert County Schools.
Delano noted Cantrell "has quite a bit of experience in the field of career tech education" and said one person described him as "a compassionate leader that's dedicated, focused and decisive." She also noted Cantrell is a veteran of the armed forces in addition to a veteran of education.
Cantrell, who retired last year from Dade County Schools, received his bachelor's degree in technical and occupational education and his master's degree in education from the University of Southern Mississippi. He received a doctorate in educational leadership from Florida's Nova Southeastern University.
"One of the quotes I got on Dr. Miller was that there is no doubt he can be a chief learning officer for a school system, and he makes teachers and principals know that they can have resources they need to be successful," Delano said. "He believes that comes from building strong relationships with faculty."
Miller is currently the head of the department of counselor, leadership and special education at Auburn University in Montgomery. However, it seems he has been itching to get back to being a superintendent since resigning as superintendent of Haleyville City Schools in 2017. Since then, Miller has qualified as a finalist for Dothan City Schools, Arab City Schools, Hartselle City Schools, Florence City Schools and Pike Road Schools.
Before Haleyville and AUM, Miller served as a principal, exceptional student coordinator and director of student services for Eufaula City Schools. He received his bachelor's degree in history and psychology from Auburn University, master's degree in special education from Troy University and doctorate in school administration and special education from Auburn.
Miller told WRBL in August 2019 that having a family member with a disability inspired him to become a special education teacher.
"It really sparked my interest in discovering what is special education, how our kids with disabilities are educated in our state," Miller said.
From deputy superintendent to business owner to board member for a local domestic violence shelter, Carlos Nelson seems to be a man of many hats.
"I have been in the education field for more than 15 years serving in the capacity of classroom teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, federal programs coordinator and curriculum director," states Nelson's biography on the website for Safeplace, a domestic violence shelter in Northwest Alabama, where he is listed as part of the board of directors. "... My affiliation with Safeplace has given me the opportunity to work with the staff in educating future generations about the seriousness of domestic violence."
Nelson is currently the deputy superintendent for Sheffield City Schools. The Alabama State Department of Education also lists him as a homeless liaison for the system. He served as a teacher and an interim middle school principal in Tuscumbia City Schools between 1996 and 2002.
Nelson earned his bachelor's, master's and specialist degrees in educational leadership from the University of North Alabama before achieving his doctorate in educational leadership from Samford University.
"His professors told me that he is a wonderful, very effective communicator, very task-oriented," Delano said. "His former employers had no hesitation in recommending Dr. Nelson for this job."
After 15 years as superintendent of Effingham County (Georgia) Schools, Randy Shearouse seems to be looking for a change. The Savannah Morning News reported Shearouse will retire when his contract ends in June, but he's now a finalist for the Limestone County job.
"He had very high recommendations from everyone I spoke to," Delano said. "One quote was, 'He is dedicated and a caring educator, as well as a man of high character.' He understands that building positive relationships with employees is the foundation of a successful school system."
Before becoming Effingham's superintendent, Shearouse served as a high school principal and elementary principal in the district. He received his bachelor's degree in social science and master's and specialist degrees in educational leadership from Georgia Southern University. Shearouse earned his doctorate in educational leadership from Capella University.
Rounding out the group is Killen Mayor Tim Tubbs, who also serves as assistant superintendent at Lauderdale County Schools. Delano said one reference called Tubbs a man "blessed with a gift to calm stormy waters."
Tubbs has served as Killen's mayor since 2012, according to the town's website. Before that, he was a high school principal in the Lauderdale County school system, and he accepted the title of assistant superintendent in 2010.
"His teachers indicated there was excellent discipline, high teacher morale and outstanding academic achievement while he was principal," Tubbs said.
Published media reports show Tubbs recently qualified as a finalist for director positions with Maury County (Tennessee) Public Schools and Manchester City (Tennessee) Schools. The only Limestone candidate without a doctorate, Tubbs earned two master's degrees from UNA — one in administration and the other in secondary education. He also received a bachelor's degree in health, physical education and recreation from UNA, but chose the University of Alabama to receive his specialist degree in administration leadership.