Lakeland plans Jan. 6 contract vote
By Carolyn Bahm
The Lakeland School Board is targeting Jan. 6 to approve a proposed contract with Dr. William Edward "Ted" Horrell III as the new school district's first superintendent. Board members unanimously voted for Horrell at a Dec. 23 meeting, and the salary and benefits negotiations are progressing.
An official start date has not yet been determined, but the phrase "as soon as possible" is part of the discussions.
Once in office, the superintendent must immediately begin working through budget issues, district policies, setting a calendar, and other priorities, said board chairman Kevin Floyd.
He identified multiple factors that made Horrell the top candidate. "I thought he has a great vision for the school system, he has experience managing, he's been a principal at two large high schools, he does have some budget experience and he also has some building campaign experience, which Lakeland will need at some time."
Horrell, who currently is principal at Germantown High School, is also a former administrator at Millington Central and Bartlett high schools. He was among four candidates who interviewed for the superintendent's role in both Lakeland and Arlington school districts. The others included:
- Dr. Lee-Ann Chism Kight, who has 20 years' experience in public education and is the East Regional Superintendent supporting Arlington and Lakeland schools;
- Dr. Allison Clark, who has 16 years' experience with Shelby County Schools and is the principal at Arlington Middle School; and
- Tammy Mason, who has 28 years' experience in Shelby County Schools, is the principal at Arlington High School, and has been selected as Arlington's new Superintendent of Education.
"They were all strong candidates," Floyd said. "It was a great field, and they were all very strong."
Horrell said he's ready for the challenge. "I'm very excited about the opportunity to work with Lakeland and starting their school system. I think there's a lot of potential for growth in that area. I really respect the way the community has gone about pursuing their school system."
The Lakeland School District currently includes just one school with about 850 elementary-age students, Floyd said. Lakeland has an overall total of about 2,000 school-age students, with the older ones attending middle and high school in Arlington, Horrell said.
A one-school system is not as uncommon as people might think — Horrell said there are more than 10 single-school systems in Tennessee already.
Although Arlington and Lakeland boards originally considered hiring one superintendent to manage both systems jointly, the districts ultimately chose to keep their administrations distinct.
"I think the candidates just performed differently in the interviews," Floyd said. "Apparently, Tammy Mason did outstanding at their interview, and Dr. Horrell did an outstanding job at ours."
Both Floyd and Horrell said they don't anticipate it being difficult for the two municipal school districts to work cooperatively.
Horrell said, "I have a ton of respect for Tammy. We've worked together as colleagues and as principals, and we're already in conversations now about how we can work together in the best interests of our students. We are more alike than different."
Both he and Floyd say they expect Lakeland will grow, and the school board will prepare for growth trends. Floyd added, "I don't anticipate Lakeland will always be a one-school system."
Horrell said he is pleased about Lakeland's high expectations for its school system. "I believe the people of Lakeland want something beyond what they had in the past. They are seeing this as an opportunity to improve on the great school they already have and are also looking to the future."