RH board chooses Hairston

Published 10:07 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP — The Rock Hill Board of Education Tuesday night voted to elevate assistant middle school principal Wes Hairston to the superintendent’s post.

Hairston, a 20-plus-year veteran of the district, received a three-year contract and will begin his new duties Aug. 1.

Board members said they chose Hairston because they thought he knows the district, knows its needs and will make the changes that need to be made to help the district improve.

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“This district has had the same superintendent for over 30 years,” Board President Dennie Hankins said. “One of the criteria was that the next superintendent be a good fit for the district professionally and in terms of character. I was impressed with his short term goals and long term goals, his strategic plan. Many of the candidates were qualified but Mr. Hairston’s qualifications fit the needs of the Rock Hill district. And I know he can hit the ground running.”

“I think Wes Hairston was very professional in every aspect,” board member Paul R. Johnson said.

“It was a very, very hard decision. We came from seven candidates to three and then Dr. Lucas withdrew. But only one candidate came to the board with a list of short-term goals and long-term goals for the district and presented it to the board and I was encouraged to see that,” board member Lavetta Sites said.

Hairston said he was thankful even to be a finalist because there were so many good candidates.

Hairston listed three core values that will be the theme of improving academics and other areas within the district. One of his three core values is to understand and respect individual differences. Another is to develop strong human relationships that foster learning.

“Education isn’t about a superintendent or a principal,” Hairston said. “It takes place in the classroom and we need to have the best people we can find and put them, in a position for success.”

His third core value is to make sure each child in the district receives the best education possible.

“Rich or poor, no matter where they came from, I want to make sure each child has the opportunity for success,” Hairston said.

Among his short-term goals: establish a monitoring system that will provide feedback on the effectiveness of the curriculum, develop a system to align curriculum vertically and horizontally, establish a climate within the schools that fosters shared beliefs, a sense of community and cooperation, implement a hiring policy that will allow the district to hire the best people and work to establish good community relations.

Among his long-term goals: Discuss the possibility of hiring a coordinator for students with disabilities, create a system to measure academic success, establish a reward system for high performing staff members and work to manage financial issues.

Hairston, 52, is a 1974 graduate of Rock Hill High School. He earned his undergraduate degree from Rio Grande University and has a master’s degree in secondary education and administration from University of Dayton. He has completed additional post-graduate work at Marshall University, Morehead State University and Kansas State University.

If Hairston is familiar with the district, the district is just as familiar with him and his family. His grandfather, Charlie White, was principal at Decatur Elementary and at one time was superintendent of the old Decatur-Washington school district before Decatur Township joined the Rock Hill district and Washington Township became part of the Oak Hill district. Russ and Delores Hairston, Wes Hairston’s parents, both taught school at Rock Hill and his brother, Mick Hairston, is middle school principal— which led to the evening’s humorous moment. In making the motion to hire Wes Hairston, board member Paul R. Johnson inadvertently substituted the wrong name.

“I move we employ Michael Hairston as superintendent,” Johnson said. Then someone whispered, “You mean Wes.”

When the appropriate Hairston was voted in place, the audience, some 40 people, applauded loudly.

Hairston replaces Lloyd Evans, whose contract with the district ends July 31.