BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Bristol Tennessee Board of Education is positioned to enlist the services of the consultant who scouted Bristol Tennessee City School’s longtime superintendent for a spot at Collierville Schools.

At its work session Thursday night, the board discussed how it would move forward on replacing Gary Lilly, Bristol Tennessee City Schools’ superintendent since 2009, who accepted a position as superintendent of Collierville Schools on May 30. The board spent about 40 minutes interviewing Wayne Qualls, owner of Tennessee Education and Management Services Inc., on Lilly’s recommendation, after Qualls handpicked Lilly to apply for the Collierville superintendent position.

The members of the board asked Qualls about his qualifications, his approach to candidate hunting and the general process of finding a new director of schools.

“The first thing I look for in a director of schools, I do not look at experience, I do not look at their degree, I look at the kind of person they are. I strongly believe the quality and the integrity and the kind of person someone is, is the single most important thing,” Qualls said.

Qualls said he had 50 years of experience in the education field and had done more than 40 superintendent searches for school systems across the state. He also described himself as a straight shooter who would be honest with the board about the candidates he picked and would speak up if he thought the board was making any mistakes while looking for a new director of schools.

Qualls said the fee for his services would be $7,000 and said the process to find a new superintendent would likely take three to four months, which he said is typical.

In a post-interview discussion, board members — and board member-elect Eric Cuddy, who was also in attendance — all responded positively to Qualls.

Board Vice Chairman Nelson Pyle said he appreciated Qualls’ honesty and that his experience distinguished him.

“Evidently, even a lot of schools around here think a lot of him,” Pyle said. Qualls was also tapped by Sullivan County Schools in February to assist with the search for a new director.

Board member Derek Linkous said Qualls’ prioritizing of a candidate’s character would be valuable during their search.

Jill Harrison, board chairwoman, also pointed out that Qualls’ service fee was lower than what they would pay if they conducted the search through the Tennessee School Board Association.

Several of board members also said they need to make sure that Qualls, if hired, would be made the designated point of contact for all candidates, as some have already started to receive calls from would-be superintendents.

At its meeting on Monday, the board is expected to release Lilly from his contract, appoint Annette Tudor, the system’s supervisor of secondary curriculum and instruction, as interim director of schools and select Qualls to search for a new director of schools.

In other business, Amy Scott, principal of Vance Middle School, gave a presentation to the board suggesting school colors for the new middle school, changing them from Vance Middle’s blue and white to maroon, white and black — a match for Tennessee High’s maroon-and-white theme. Scott said they found strong support for the color change — and those colors in particular — through surveys conducted within the community.

Update: Qualls was hired by Sullivan County Schools in February.

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