05/26/13 — Taylor to stay on -- for now

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Taylor to stay on -- for now

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 26, 2013 1:50 AM

Dr. Steven Taylor

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent for Wayne County Public Schools, will not retire July 1 as originally announced.

He said Friday he will postpone his retirement for an undetermined amount of time.

Assistant superintendent for accountability and student services, Dr. Craig McFadden, who was slated to retire the same day, is also staying.

Taylor became superintendent in 2000, at age 42.

He had announced his retirement before a gathering of staff and school board members on April 19. A few days later, McFadden followed suit. Their last day was set for June 30.

Taylor said the change of plans boils down to the amount of work still to be done and the continuation of his relationships in the school district.

"Wayne County Public Schools is in the process of implementing the next phase of its facilities plan and facing education reform in the state and national levels," he said. "Many of the board members felt very strongly that a continuity of leadership was needed and shared concerns with me about navigating the process of a superintendent's search during the time of transition.

"Dr. McFadden and I welcome the opportunity to continue serving in our roles and appreciate the support given as we move forward."

McFadden, who has a 38-year career in education, had said that while the decision to retire was made individually, he and Taylor have seemingly worked in tandem over the years. He said that it had become a tradition of sorts for the two men to compare notes about possible retirement dates.

Having worked with nine superintendents in the span of his career, McFadden joked at the time that he had no intention of breaking in a 10th boss.

Taylor said Friday he was pleased that the assistant superintendent had agreed to continue.

No target date has been set for either of them to depart, but Taylor mentioned that part of the reason for postponing retirement was that the board had expressed concern over having enough advance notice to allow time to do a more thorough search.

The search for a replacement had already begun, school board chairman John Grantham said. The job opening had been promptly posted on the school system's website, with a May 31 deadline for applications to be sent electronically to Jack Edwards, attorney for the district.

Grantham said earlier in the week that there had been a good response from applicants, with resumes being turned over to the board for consideration.

The latest announcement renders further action moot.

"Obviously we're not going to be searching right now because he's decided not to retire. It would be a bad time for us right now to be searching with everything we have going on, new testing and accountability requirements," Grantham said, adding, "We would need Dr. McFadden's expertise."

Grantham, who was on the original school board when Taylor was hired, said he is pleased with the turn of events.

"I look forward to working with Dr. Taylor on implementing the facilities plan and the other initiatives," he said. "Dr. McFadden's expertise and understanding of testing and the new accountability models will also be invaluable for the district and the board in the coming year."

Taylor noted that the change of plans does not require additional action.

"I submitted my letter to the board chairman, but the board has not taken any formal action to accept the letter of retirement," he said.

He said he had notified the state of his initial retirement plans, but that process could be interrupted by a simple phone call.

Grantham agreed.

"The search is over. He's decided not to retire. He didn't resign. He was going to retire and then decided not to retire," he said. "The board doesn't have to accept a retirement. This doesn't require board action."

There is an element of relief attached to the turn of events, the men said. Now the board will not have to sift through applications or weigh other options, such as naming an interim or making a quick decision within a few weeks.

Board member Rick Pridgen said he is "elated" that Taylor had decided to stay put.

"I knew Dr. Taylor had his years (in) and was thinking about the possibility of retiring," he said Friday afternoon. "But with everything going on with the Common Core and testing, I definitely want him and Dr. McFadden here for the transition."

Pridgen said members of the board had expressed similar sentiments to both men, in hopes they might consider at least staying on temporarily.

"I think enough of us just got together and told (Taylor) how we felt," he said. "And I'm glad. It gives us more time. Several of us have mentioned if (he) wants to stay on, but give us a little more notice to give us the proper time to do a search.

"I was elated that he would consider staying. I don't know how long he will stay on, but I hope he will stay on at least to finish out his contract."

Taylor's current contract has two years left on it, while McFadden's contract runs for another year.

Pridgen said the board was prepared to go through the application process, but for now that appears to be unnecessary.

Board member Eddie Radford said that is probably a good thing for the district, considering the climate.

"In my research, I discovered 25 possible openings for superintendents in the state of North Carolina right now," he said Friday evening. "Our candidates would be extremely limited. I think we would certainly like to have a broad base of whoever we choose."

Radford agreed with Pridgen's assessment.

"We're fixing to go through some tough times with this new Common Core curriculum," he said. "Dr. Taylor started this facilities plan and we're trying to do the best to get that done. I think if he stays, we can stay ahead of the game with that."

Taylor, a Wayne County native and 1976 graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School, began his career in 1980 as a driver's education teacher with Tarboro City Schools.

He earned his doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Michigan State University in 1984, becoming director of transportation with WCPS one year later. During his time with the district, he has been a principal, assistant superintendent, personnel assistant and director of personnel services.