After months of searching, the Anniston Board of Education has three candidates to replace Superintendent Joan Frazier, who will retire at the end of the school year. Last week, the board narrowed its selection process to four candidates. However, one applicant, Reginald Eggleston, assistant superintendent for Mobile County Schools, withdrew his application last weekend.
Donna Ross, school board president, said Eggleston had to drop out due to his other job as an Army reservist at the Pentagon. Ross said his contract with the Pentagon was supposed to end in January, but was recently extended.
Ross said the board will soon pick a fourth candidate to interview from the pool of 38 people who applied for the superintendent position. The board will interview candidates in January.
"I definitely think we'll get a great candidate," Ross said. "We just have to find the right fit for us."
Of the three current candidates, Darren Douthitt, 48, superintendent of the Butler County School system, is the only one who has previously worked in the Anniston school district. Douthitt was principal at Anniston High School from 2001 to 2003. He has served as Butler superintendent since May 2010.
An Ohatchee native, Douthitt said his interest in education began at an early age.
"I had a good role model in Ohatchee High that groomed me," Douthitt said. "It's something I have a passion for ... there is nothing like being an educator and to reach young students."
Douthitt said his familiarity with the area makes him a good fit for the superintendent job.
"Being that Anniston and Calhoun County is my home, I think I have something to offer the students and the community here," Douthitt said.
He said his work ethic and willingness to be available to residents in the community whenever they need him also makes him a good candidate.
"I'm a different kind of superintendent ... I make house calls," Douthitt said. "I believe in being present and visible."
Keith Stewart, the other superintendent among the three candidates, has served the Bullock County Board of Education since July 2003. Stewart, 52, of Tallassee, said he wants to work in Anniston due to the city government's and school board's recent efforts to revitalize the school system and the local economy.
"This looks like a community that wants to grow," Stewart said. "I think it's a great opportunity."
Stewart said he decided to become an educator while serving in the Air Force.
"I would do a lot of volunteer coaching in the community, and one day it dawned on me that I needed to be a teacher," Stewart said.
Stewart said his efforts to improve education in Bullock County, which has a high poverty rate, would make him a good fit for Anniston, which also has a high rate of poverty. Stewart noted that he and his staff upgraded every classroom in Bullock with modern technology, such as laptops.
"People think that students from poverty can't compete," Stewart said. "But they can with the right support system."
Stewart added that the Bullock County school system was nearly broke when he took over as superintendent but has since been saved from being taken over by the state.
"Anniston wants to compete with other school systems," Stewart said. "Do you want someone who studies war or do you want someone who has fought in wars and come out victorious?"
Vickie Scott, 54, is the only candidate not based in Alabama, however, she recently worked with Anniston city leaders and the school board through her job with Highpoints Learning in Duluth, Ga. Highpoints Learning is an education company that serves 27 states and offers programs to improve math achievement in schools. Along with experience in the private sector, Scott has many years of experience in public education, including serving from 2004 to 2005 as deputy superintendent for the Fulton County school district in Georgia.
Scott said her efforts earlier this year to help the school system meet its math achievement goals sparked her interest in working in Anniston.
"I'm attached to the community and the leadership," Scott said.
Scott said she gained experience and a love for teaching while still a child.
"My passion began in second grade when I tutored a classmate who had a speech impediment," Scott said. "I've always loved teaching."
Scott said her variety of experience, from improving student learning to developing strategies to acquire education money for schools, makes her the right choice for the job.
"It's my experience in corporate America, public education, my understanding of government agencies and how they can all work together to improve conditions for students," Scott said.
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.