Williams Interviewed for Memphis Job
by Buck Quigley - posted 3:40 pm, May 8, 2008
When the Memphis Commercial Appeal published details of the search for that city school district’s superintendent position on Tuesday, May 6, Dr. James Williams was named as one of the five finalists for the position.
The next day, as the story was breaking here, the Buffalo Public Schools Web site posted an official statement from Williams, which reads in part, “The Memphis City School District and their representatives recently contacted me regarding my possible interest in the position of Superintendent of their District. I was approached about this position and I have not formally interviewed for the position.”
Williams does not elaborate more on his new job prospects, but Alvin Johnson, speaking today on behalf of Ray and Associates, was able to shed a bit more light on the situation.
Ray and Associates is the executive search company that has been contracted by Memphis schools to find suitable candidates for their Superintendent position.
Johnson says that Williams was contacted by a letter sent to him from Ray and Associates headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Apparently, Williams will open a letter from a “professional organization that specializes in school executive leadership searches” even if he won’t open a certified letter from a teacher in his own district. In defense of not reading that important message that was reporting alleged fondling of a young student by a teacher’s aide, Williams went on the record saying he doesn’t open any of his mail.
Somehow, this letter was different.
And even though Williams claims to be on a mission for the children here in Buffalo, he not only considered the Memphis offer, he completed an application for the job, according to Johnson.
Johnson also acknowledges that Williams participated in a preliminary phone interview with an associate of the search firm, sometime between the end of March and the beginning of May as part of the recruitment process.
“We’re looking to see if the candidate really matches the profile.” Johnson says.
So when Williams says he hasn’t “formally interviewed for the position,” are we to take that to mean that he was dressed casually when he spoke with Ray and Associates over the phone?
You can read the job advertisement sent out by the Memphis schools for yourself. The ideal candidate will possess (among other things) the following desired characteristics:
• Possesses excellent people skills, will listen to input, but can make a decision when necessary.
• Will inspire trust, has high levels of self-confidence and optimism, and models high standards of integrity and personal performance.
• Possesses the leadership skills required to respond to the challenges presented by an ethnically and culturally diverse community.
• Is strongly committed to a “student first” philosophy in all decisions.
Sounds like our man.
Tonight, the Buffalo school board holds a closed meeting at the Hyatt to discuss Dr. Williams’s evaluation. Since every one of these evaluation meetings have been attended by Williams—the very man being evaluated—he is expected to further explain why he told no other board members besides Mary Ruth Kapsiak of the Memphis job prospect.
In typical fashion, Williams kept his behavior secret until the story broke in the Memphis newspaper. At which point, he issued a hasty statement that does not fully describe his involvement in the job search. He’s clearly interested in the Memphis job or he would have ripped up the letter from Cedar Rapids and replied: “Thank you for the opportunity to apply for the position of Superintendent of Memphis Schools. However, I must respectfully decline your offer because, as the current Superintendent of Buffalo Schools, I am on a mission for the children of the city of Buffalo.”