VILONIA — The Vilonia Board of Education will take another step toward the hiring of a new school superintendent with the interviewing of three candidates next week.

"There’s no doubt all three of these can do the job," said consultant Bobby Lester of McPherson & Jacobson, LLC., the recruitment company hired to help with the search. Lester was addressing the board at the conclusion of a special meeting, held Tuesday night, where three names, Dr. David Stephens, Dr. Karen Walters and Dr. John Tackett, were announced as being the top three candidates to replace Dr. Frank Mitchell who will retire at the end of the school year.

Lester and Dr. Kieth Williams, Arkansas consultants representing McPherson and Jacobson, have been working with the district since November researching, recruiting and conducting interviews. The consultants said that several had applied with four "standing out" from the rest. One of the top candidates, they said, dropped out of the process last week.

Stephens, Walters and Tackett appear to have similar traits and characteristics, according to the consultants, who spoke briefly about each. High integrity, active in the community and strong work ethics were phrases mentioned about all three. Each, however, had varied work experience. All have worked as teachers and school administrators in more than one district. As well, all have Arkansas connections.

Stephens is the current superintendent, Nevada R-V School District, Nevada, Missouri. It was said his wife, Kelly, is from Vilonia and that her mother lives in the area. Walters is the assistant commissioner, Division of Human Resources, Educator Effectiveness and Licensure, Arkansas Department of Education. Tackett is the director of secondary education for the Pulaski County Special School District.