Board begins search for new superintendent

DB principal Hampton named interim superintendent

IN CHARGE, FOR NOW. With the retirement of Jeff Moorhouse, Dobyns-Bennett High School principal Chris Hampton now serves as interim superintendent. The search for a permanent replacement for Moorhouse is underway.

Photo/COURTESY OF KCS

IN CHARGE, FOR NOW. With the retirement of Jeff Moorhouse, Dobyns-Bennett High School principal Chris Hampton now serves as interim superintendent. The search for a permanent replacement for Moorhouse is underway.

Since Jeff Moorhouse has announced his retirement from Kingsport City Schools, the Board of Education now has to begin the search for a new leader. Searching for a new superintendent is a big scavenger hunt through the area.

Melissa Woods is the president of the KCS Board of Education. To her, it is not optimal to replace a superintendent in the middle of a school year.

“Obviously it would be optimal to be able to have a fresh start with a new person at the beginning of the year, just because you can set things in place,” she said. “However, since we have an interim that is within our district, they are familiar with Kingsport City Schools, it should be a smoother process in transitioning to a new person.”

Because there is no current superintendent, the BOE chose a temporary replacement for Moorhouse: Chris Hampton, Dobyns-Bennett High School’s principal.

“He has a lot of experience in leading large groups of people,” Woods said “He’s been the principal at Dobyns-Bennett for over 12 years. There are roughly 2500 students there.”

Hampton has been with KCS for over 25 years, so he’s familiar with the procedures of Kingsport City Schools.

“He’s very passionate about Kingsport,” Woods said. “He loves Kingsport. He’s very invested in Kingsport. He has shown the ability to lead during some very difficult times, so it was an easy choice.”

With Hampton in place as interim superintendent, the BOE can now focus on finding the right candidate to permanently take charge of Kingsport City Schools.

There are different routes that the BOE can take: the board itself could actually do the search, they could advertise for the position and accept applications and review those applications, or they could hire a search firm.

“So, we would come up with a criteria that we would like in a superintendent, and then they would search for that person,” Woods said “They would put that information out in various states, and then bring the information back to us. There are also independent firms of individuals who actually do that. They go out and seek a superintendent and they’re knowledgeable in the field of who is available.”

The superintendent usually is picked from inside of the district, as the past two have been, but this time the superintendent was picked from outside of the district.

“The past two superintendents that we have had, we have had them within our district with the understanding that the interim would not be selected as the final candidate,” Woods said. “We chose to use an outside firm to go out and choose different candidates that they felt would be good for Kingsport City Schools.”

The BOE generally looks for someone who can manage a large group of people, such as staff, students, and facility workers.

“For us, specifically, we need someone who can manage a budget,” Woods said. “Kingsport City Schools has a rather large budget, there are a lot of moving parts. We have over 700 Certified staff and about that much classified staff. We have over 1400 employees. So, that’s a lot to manage.”

According to retiring superintendent Jeff Moorhouse, the next superintendent will face some unique challenges.

“We’ve got some facility challenges; we’re experiencing growth in our city,” he said. “So we’re going to need to make some decisions on facilities and how to renovate the ones that we currently have. I think that the biggest challenge right now is around those facilities.”

Some believe a superintendent should be elected, like the BOE members, instead of hired. Woods disagreed.

“I look at being a superintendent like being the CEO of an organization,” she said. “Most of the time, those are selected by a board of directors, which is what will happen in our case.”

Whoever the BOE selects to lead Kingsport City Schools, Moorhouse has some advice for them: build community.

“What I often tell people is to work in Kingsport City Schools, there are high expectations, but high expectations are not unique to Kingsport City Schools,” he said. “What’s unique is the community that’s around, that’s willing to jump in and help to accomplish those high expectations. That’s one of the things that’s really refreshing. So, to build those networks, to rely on your community to help you make those decisions, and to continue to be the lighthouse for our region, that’s my advice.”