Search starts for Maury County schools superintendent

Maury County Schools Superintendent Chris Marczak talks informally after a vote ending his contract June 30. Photos by Clint Confehr

By Clint Confehr

COLUMBIA, TN — Maury County’s school board started developing a superintendent search Wednesday having voted 7-3 last week against renewing the current manager’s contract.

Superintendent Chris Marczak’s contract ends June 30.

“There will be a discussion as to whether we should let him continue that, which is what he would like, or whether we want to consider a buy-out,” board chairperson Betty Kinser said.

The board would “discuss the next step,” she said anticipating discussion Jan. 29.

Buying-out Marczak’s contract includes paying an interim manager. With a 5-5 vote Jan. 21, the board didn’t make Jan. 24 his last day. Assistant directors frequently serve as interims.

When asked, Dr. Ron Woodard, assistant director over instruction, said he wants to lead a system someday. He’s considering his options.

Marczak’s chief of staff, Scott Lindsey, is not a candidate for the job. Other system leaders were asked by email, but didn’t reply.

“An interim would be someone who isn’t necessarily looking to be superintendent, but someone … everybody would be comfortable with,” Kinser said. Then, the board could do “whatever it takes to get the right person.”

She wouldn’t rank concerns about Marczak, but listed audit findings, payroll problems, a “lack of trust,” and student test scores “in the bottom 5 percent.” Marczak is “a very likable, charismatic, person. He is one of the best at PR … but we need more management.”

The (Columbia) Daily Herald quote Marczak after the vote: “I have fulfilled my mission … to turn the school district around.” Earlier, he said it’s the “wrong time” for change. “ACT scores are up.” Kinser confirmed Herald reporting: Marczak survived two 5-6 votes “to oust him.”

Four legal issues didn’t sway Kinser, she said.

A chancellor found “inappropriate acts” by Marczak when teachers applied state law on work rule deliberations. A counselor complained her transfer was based on race; no settlement amount was stated. A parent complained her child was mistreated; settlement was considerably less than what was sought. A teacher was arrested for kidnapping a student.

Kinser will “look at” hiring from within.

Williamson County had a former director as interim during a director search. Giles County made its deputy director an interim.

So, Woodard was asked Thursday if he wants a promotion. “The role of superintendent

One of Maury County Schools Assistant Director Ron Woodard’s career goals is to be a system director. He’s “in prayer about it,” but wants “the right opportunity at the right time.”

often appears glamorous, but it is not to be entered into lightly,” he said in a Friday email.

“It is an overwhelmingly difficult task … I am keeping my options open and I am in the process of discerning whether or not this is the right time and the right opportunity for me and my family. To succeed in this role, it will take a strong vision, a lot of collaboration and time. I believe that … educators … have a civic duty to … provide high-quality schools and learning experiences for all students. The downside to this opportunity is … public scrutiny. Public opinions can be brutal.”

Examples: “Ding dong the witch is dead,” activist Karen Olayinka said of Marczak. Renee Cummings of Mt. Pleasant cited: teacher turnover; a new curriculum; and whether new teachers are qualified.

A Republican committee monitoring leaders includes Debbie Matthews who said “The community wishes they’d this done a year ago.” County commissioners hesitate to appropriate more money “as long as” Marczak is superintendent.

Woodard said, “If given an opportunity, I would continue the focus on academic expectations, goal setting/planning and establishing a fair internal accountability system.”

His relationship with the board “is positive,” he said Thursday. “The board has one employee;” the superintendent.

Kinser said, “Anybody is welcome to apply.”

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Clint Confehr
About Clint Confehr 229 Articles
Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical Area began in the summer of 1980. Clint's covered news in several Southern states at newspapers, radio stations and one TV station. Married since 1982, he's a grandfather and is semi-retired from daily news work.