Conway Public Schools will interview its top three candidates for superintendent during closed executive sessions this week.

As the Log Cabin Democrat reported in June, Greg Murry will retire from the position next summer after 14 years. McPherson and Jacobson, an educational leadership recruitment firm, was contracted to help the district with its search for Murry’s replacement.

“We have been very impressed with the rigorous work of McPherson and Jacobson,” Trip Leach, Conway Board of Education president, said. “It’s easy to see why they are sought after by so many school districts and why their success rate for hiring long-term superintendents is so high. Their experience and guidance in structuring this process has been ideal.”

The first of the closed interviews with a candidate for the position was Monday. They will continue Wednesday and Thursday. The district plans to name a new superintendent in December.

The three finalists are:

Jon Collins, West Memphis School District superintendent

Collins has been the superintendent in the West Memphis School District for the past seven years, and has served as a principal for many years in that district. He has 25 years of administrative experience.

Jeff Collum, Hallsville, Texas ISD superintendent

Collum has been working as a school superintendent for the past nine years – currently in Hallsville (Texas) ISD. He was previously superintendent in Benton, Arkansas. He has 15 years of administrative experience.

Mark Gotcher, Russellville School District superintendent

Gotcher has been superintendent of Russellville Schools for the past three years. Before coming to Russellville, he served as Deputy Commissioner for the Arkansas Department of Education. He has 20 years of administrative experience.

In addition to their formal interviews with the Conway school board, the finalists “will spend a day in the district, meeting with stakeholder groups of teachers, classified staff, students, and administrators,” spokesman Heather Kendrick said. They will also meet with community leaders and have the chance to visit schools in the district.

McPherson and Jacobson helped the district set criteria for the position, determining the ideal candidate would be someone:

Who is fiscally conservative, has proven budgeting experience, values and understands equity in budgeting for essential areas.

Who has successfully demonstrated the ability to hire and utilize subordinates effectively, build strong relationships throughout the district and state, expand involvement, and communicate effectively with all staff, students, community, and the Board of Education.

Who is a person of high integrity, strong morals, compassionate, a servant leader, displays humility, and has a sense of humor.

Who has demonstrated success with broad-based community engagement and the development of a strong public relations/marketing campaign.

Who will integrate into the community, values and promote diversity, promotes the “Wampus Cat Culture,” and builds trust with all publics.

Who is innovative, a strategic thinker, follows through on tasks, understands law and policy, and is involved on the state level by having input to influence decisions related to K-12 education.

Who understands and values “ALL” students in making decisions, uses data as the scorecard to continue moving the district forward.

After determining this criteria, the position was advertised to potential applicants, and consultants from McPherson/Jacobson met with stakeholder groups from the Conway community and across the district, Kendrick said. Feedback from each of these meetings was given to the board for consideration in the interview/hiring process.

Once all applications for the position were received, the consultants reviewed these, completed reference checks and compiled additional information about the candidates for the board members to review.

“We believe these individuals are excellent, well-qualified candidates and we are looking forward to meeting with each of them.“ Leach said. “Conway is blessed with the best schools and the best students and staff, and we will find the best leader for this district.”

Jeanette Anderton can be reached at janderton@thecabin.net.

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