Education One Step Closer to New County Schools Superintendent | The Cullman Tribune


One Step Closer to New County Schools Superintendent

Final candidates interviewed Tuesday night

CULLMAN - Communication was the key topic on Tuesday night as the four finalists for the position of Cullman County Schools Superintendent were put through public interviews by the Cullman County Commission on Education. The interviews took place at the Cullman County Board of Education office downtown.

The four finalists are vying for the role that was vacated by Dr. Craig Ross back in November of last year. CCBOE’s Interim Superintendent, Dr. Brandon Payne, will be leaving his role after the new superintendent comes on board. Payne, who was previously CCBOE’s assistant superintendent under Ross and longtime principal of Vinemont High School, has accepted a position with LEAN Frog in Huntsville.

Prior to the evening, the finalists were each given a copy of the questions to be asked at the public interviews. Each candidate, while answering in their individual styles, emphasized the key point of communication and all identified as being servant leaders.

Mr. Shane Barnette, principal at Cullman County’s West Point Intermediate School and the only finalist with direct ties to the school system, was the first interview and cited the County’s need for consistency and emphasized the position would not be a stepping stone to ready him for greener pastures.

“During my tenure as an educator I’ve had opportunities to take positions outside of our district. There’s been high school positions that pay more than what I’m making now, but I choose to be here. This is where my heart is. This is where I want to be. I believe our school system right now is in need of long-term stability, and I think I can provide that. I bring stability, but with gradual, strategic innovation.”

Barnette “felt like God was calling me to be an educator” and is currently attending Samford University to complete his doctorate. If chosen for superintendent, he plans to “listen, listen, listen” to the needs of all of the schools and their students.

“Each day as an instructional leader and a principal I feel like I do everything I can for my teachers and my students to be the very best that they can be, to be the best leaders that they can be, and I feel like if you choose me to be superintendent of Cullman County Schools I will do that for our entire county.”

Dr. Donald Snow, the second interviewee of the night, is the current principal of Austin High School in the Decatur City School District. A member of the class of 1986 from nearby Arab High School, Snow has been an educator for 24 years and is in his 13th year as principal and athletic director at Austin. Current enrollment at Austin is over 1,400 students with 90+ teachers under Snow’s leadership.

Identifying as a leader who isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves to seek solutions, Snow outlined his open-door policy and history of implementing successful programs designed to increase graduation rates as his assets.

Supportive of one-to-one initiatives, Snow wishes to see a netbook in every student’s hand while ensuring teacher training for technology. Noting that he “hires good people” as a key to combating personnel issues, Snow would spend his first few months “getting to know the players” in the schools throughout the system and finding out about Cullman.

Snow noted his 24 years of experience as the key to making him the best candidate for the superintendent position.

Dr. Elizabeth Swinford, consultant/superintendent of Tuscaloosa County Schools and native New Yorker, was the most experienced candidate with 32 years in education, 25 of those in administration. Despite the years spent in administration, Swinford was quick to point out that she “will always be a teacher.”

Swinford is the only applicant with a previous superintendent position having served five years in the position in the Tuscaloosa County School System. She said she would incorporate a “listen and learn” approach and utilize community forums and social media to communicate with the county. Identifying the need to be a strong presence and representative of the board of education in the community, Swinford said she would remain active in her many volunteer positions including United Way, the Alzheimer’s Association and Relay for Life.

Noting she has never had a budget go in the red, Swinford said she has been responsible for budgets up to $180 million and is a strong supporter of taking advantage of available federal and state grants. Most recently, she oversaw the planning, building and opening of the new Brookwood High School in Tuscaloosa.

“I have experience as a superintendent. I have many years at central office. I know how to get along with people because I have a great background in HR. I think that I would make you proud and I would serve this community,” shared Swinford.

Lastly, Dr. Rick Carter, current director of virtual programs for the Athens City School District, aptly incorporated a PowerPoint presentation during his interview. Displaying his extensive professional affiliations and accomplishments, including being a 2014 National Principal of the Year Nominee and serving as National Association of Secondary School Principals State Coordinator, Carter noted, “I do believe that one person can make a difference.”

Stressing the need for communication, Carter displayed his objective of “clear and concise communication” and a framework for achieving his communication goals which included individual monthly meetings with principals, quarterly town hall meetings and strong reliance on advisory committees.

Carter explained his goal of having the students within the system, “Ready for college. Ready for work. Ready for life.” He noted that the “safety of students and staff” would be his first priority and the school facilities that were in need of repair would be taken care of before the technology initiatives cited by some of the other applicants.

Referencing the butterflies in his stomach the day of the interview as an indicator of his passion, Carter said, “If you’re not nervous about an opportunity, especially in leadership, something’s wrong. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means that you understand the responsibility that’s required of the position. 10,000 kids, not even counting the hundreds of employees or the communities that are dependent on Cullman County schools. It’s a major undertaking. It’s one that I don’t take in the slightest as being something easy. It’s going to take work.”

Carter concluded with, “But, what I can tell you about me is that I’ll give you everything I’ve got.”

The Cullman County Commission on Education will have a board workshop on Thursday, March 17, beginning at 5 p.m.

The Commission will meet again on Monday, March 21 at 6 p.m., where it will appoint the new Superintendent of Cullman County Schools

Both meetings will take place at the Cullman County Board of Education central office in the board room. The CCBOE is located at 402 Arnold Street NE.


For background, please see:



  • Shane Barnette
  • Dr. Donald Snow
  • Dr. Elizabeth Swinford
  • Dr. Rick Carter