All six candidates were asked 20 questions by director of schools search consultant Wayne Qualls, and scored on a scale of 1-5 per question by all seven school board members.
As a result, the highest possible score per candidate was 700.
Matt Hixson, who has been assistant director for six years in San Jacinto, Calif., had the high score with 626, followed by Thomas Sisk, with 536.
Sisk has been superintendent of Limestone County Schools in Alabama for six years.
Hixson and Sisk will be interviewed again by the BOE next Monday, Oct. 22, beginning at 6 p.m., after which the board is expected to vote on its choice for director.
Steve Starnes who had been Hawkins County’s director since 2014, accepted the Greeneville director of schools position earlier this year.
Assistant director Dr. Reba Bailey has been serving as interim director since Starnes’ departure.
Who are the finalists?
Upon announcing in September the six director candidates who would be interviewed, Qualls told the board Hixson is known for his recruitment of teachers. He is also a technology expert, has experience as a principal, and he has five children between the ages of 10 and 16 whom he wants to raise in a rural setting like Hawkins County.
Sisk has a doctorate in numismatics (coins and currency) in addition to an Ed.S. in education; was one of 300 recipients of the National Superintendent Certifications; earned the Alabama State Legislative Award for five years; and led Limestone to “Top Distinction for Career Training.”
Experience put them atop of the scoreboard
Hawkins County Board of Education Chairman Bob Larkins said he believes one issue that put Hixson and Sisk above the other candidates was their experience in a director of schools or assistant director of schools position.
"Leadership experience at that level," Larkins said. "They have been involved in preparing of the budget. They have been involved in employee matters. so, I think that probably gives them a leg up just a little bit."
Larkins added, "I was impressed with their character. We were looking for somebody of a high character, very straight forward, one that can communicate well, and I have to say that all of our candidates communicated well, but these have just done exceptional."
Larkins admitted he was surprised that the two non-locals were at the top of the scoreboard.
"I thought the (local candidates) would have an advantage going into the interviews, and they certainly did interview well, but I think the experience at that level outweighed the advantage that the (locals) had," Larkins said. "The skill-set for a director of schools is probably much different than it is for a supervisor or a principal, although those are valuable experiences. It's just different."
How the other candidates scored
The six director candidates interviewed were chosen from 18 applicants.
Patrick Fraley, who is a former Cherokee H.S. principal and current Greeneville H.S. principal, scored third with 531; followed by Hawkins County attendance supervisor Greg Sturgill at 485, Cherokee's current principal Thomas Floyd with 428; and former Surgoinsville and Rogersville middle school principal Jim Alshie who is currently Volunteer's head track and cross country coach scored 383.
"We had six excellent candidates, and it's regrettable that we don't have six positions that we could fill with those good candidates. Obviously Mr. Hixon was quite a bit ahead, by 90 points, and then you had Mr. Sisk and Mr. (Patrick) Fraley just neck and neck. I think we've obviously got two of the best and I'm looking forward to the final round of interviews next Monday."