Search begins for new director

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By Robby O'Daniel

The hunt for a new Campbell County director of schools began anew after Larry Nidiffer’s announced retirement last week.

Nidiffer’s contract expires June 30, 2018, and he may stay the duration of that time, per school board chairman Mike Orick.

“He may be here till the last day of his contract, that’s right, but we are going to start the search because he’s going to be a part of it,” Orick said.

Orick’s goal is to have a new director of schools installed by January or February.

“The main focus is this next director hopefully will have a three- or four-year contract and it’ll give Mr. Nidiffer, if we can have somebody in place by January or February, it’ll give Nidiffer four or five months to work with that individual to where they can get trained,” Orick said. “Because the problem that we’ve got is our central office staff is aging. It’s not that they’re old, but they’re retiring. And right now there’s probably six or seven considering retiring, so this next director’s going to have to hire a whole new staff. It’s going to be tough on the whole system to get those folks in there and train them and everything.”

Orick said the new director would have to replace at least five people in central office, he estimates.

The search may start as early as August.

“We’ll wait till school gets started back and everybody gets settled in, and then I’ll set up a committee, a search committee,” Orick said. “And then the board goes through, and we determine what the criteria for the director’s got to be and if they’d live in Campbell County, if they live outside of Campbell County, how far we’re going to search, who’s going to conduct the search, are we going to do it ourselves, are we going to get other entities involved. It’s a long process. That’s why we’ve got to start now because it’s hard to get 10 people to agree on anything, but we’ve got a good board.”

Orick said this would mark the fifth director of schools he’s seen in his 10 years.

“I think it’s very important that that director of schools, the new director of schools, has had the experience of working in or around a central office because it’s totally different than working in a school,” Orick said. “You’ve got 4, 5, 6, 700 employees you’re trying to manage, and you’re the guy. … It’s the most important thing that we’ll [the board of education will] ever do is hire a director of schools, period, because that lady or man is going to either help our system or hurt our system. It’s a tough job.”

Orick praised Nidiffer.

“Larry’s done a fantastic job,” Orick said. “He was the right person at the right time, and I wish he’d stayed 10 more years.”

When Nidiffer was selected for the position in 2015, runner-up was Wynn Elementary principal Bob Walden.

Walden said he hadn’t decided if he would run again.

“It’s definitely not off the table,” Walden said.

LaFollette Elementary principal Meredith Arnold, who was among four finalists for the Claiborne County director of schools position earlier this year before losing out, said she wouldn’t pursue the Campbell County position.

“I’m not interested in that at this time,” Arnold said.