After serving three years as Principal of DeKalb County High School, Patrick Cripps is getting a new assignment.
By a unanimous vote of 7-0, the Board of Education met in special session Thursday night and named Cripps the next Director of Schools. Cripps has accepted the board's offer of a two year employment contract at a base salary of $85,000 per year. Cripps signed an initial 30 day contract Thursday night which is valid immediately until the board finalizes the deal. After the board and Cripps settle on all the contract terms at a July 30 workshop the board plans to vote on the final agreement at its next regular monthly meeting on Thursday, August 6 after it's been reviewed by legal counsel.
"I'm really excited. I was really blessed and honored as Principal of DCHS and I am really excited to be Director of Schools. It's kind of surreal. It's hard to imagine that this opportunity has come to be at this time but I am very grateful and look forward to serving DeKalb County," Cripps told WJLE after the meeting.
His first priority as Director will be to fill vacant positions including his own at the high school. " First off we have to get people in place. With me leaving my position that leaves two (vacant) principals (DCHS and Northside). Immediately I have to start looking at applications, setting up interviews, and getting those positions filled," Cripps said.
Cripps received a BS degree from Tennessee Tech University in the fall of 1995 with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology. In the fall of 1999, Cripps earned an MA in Educational Psychology and Counselor Education at Tennessee Tech. During the summer of 2004, Cripps received his Ed.S degree in Instructional Leadership at Tennessee Tech.
He has served as Principal at DCHS since 2012. Cripps began his education career in DeKalb County as a Safe Schools Counselor in 1997. Two years later, Cripps was named a School Counselor at DCHS. In 2005, he moved up to becoming an Assistant Principal at DCHS, a position he held until being named Principal.
Cripps becomes only the fourth director of schools in DeKalb County since the state law changed in 1998 requiring school superintendents to be appointed by local boards of education instead of being popularly elected. The first appointed director locally was Aubrey Turner, Jr. who served from 1998-2002, followed by Jim McCormick from 2002-2006, and Mark Willoughby from 2006-2015. Dr. Danielle Collins was named as interim director in April after the departure of Willoughby and is completing three months in the position. She will continue to serve as Federal Programs Supervisor for the School System.
Seven persons had submitted applications or resumes to become the next director. The board narrowed the number to three finalists but one of them dropped out later leaving only two candidates, Cripps and Supervisor of Special Education Gina Arnold who both interviewed with the board Tuesday night.
During Thursday night's special meeting, the board members conducted the vote as recommended by legal counsel of the Tennessee School Boards Association first using paper ballots to make their choices. After the votes were counted Board Chairman W.J. (Dub) Evins, III announced that all seven board members had voted for Cripps. A roll call then followed with all members confirming their votes for Cripps.
Chairman Evins congratulated Cripps on the appointment and Arnold for being a candidate. "Ms. Arnold, it has been a tough decision. I've heard so many comments on your interview the other night. It could have gone either way. I appreciate what you continue to do here. I congratulate you on your efforts and thank you very much," said Chairman Evins.
Board member Jerry Wayne Johnson praised Dr. Collins for the job she did filling in as director on an interim basis. "I want to thank Dr. Collins for what she has done. She worked hard on the budget. She stepped in and filled some big shoes and she has done a wonderful job. I want to let her know I appreciate it. Thank you very much," said Johnson.
"I think everybody can say the same," added Chairman Evins.
"Since the appointment of our new director, I would like to thank the board members for what they do for our system. We will continue our mission to ensure education in DeKalb County moves forward. I would also like to thank the board members for entrusting me with the responsibility as Interim Director for the last few months. The employees of our school system have been remarkable during this transition period. It has been a privilege to work with our board, news media, Mayor Stribling and County Commissioners and I look forward to working with each in the future," said Dr. Collins in a prepared statement Friday morning.