“I feel like you saved the system,” a Mobile County school commissioner told Superintendent Chresal Threadgill on Thursday. “I think the Lord sent you here, I really do.”
Reginald Crenshaw’s words may have been the strongest spoken in favor of Threadgill on Thursday, as the school board evaluated his performance in his first year as head of the Mobile County Public School System, but not by much. The five-man board voted to endorse Threadgill’s self-evaluation report as its own finding, with just a few quibbles. Threadgill had given himself a five (excellent) rating in most categories, dipping to four (good) in a few. The quibbles from commissioners were mostly that the fours should have been fives as well.
“Mr. Threadgill, I gave you all fives,” said District 2 Commissioner Don Stringfellow of his own evaluation. “The areas you gave yourself fours in, I’ve seen evidence that you have addressed those things.” Stringfellow’s remarks echoed that of several other commissioners.
“I would like to add this to the record, that when it’s holistically scored, each of those sections, all of those [sections where Threadgill gave himself a four] would all be classified as a five,” Stringfellow said before the board’s vote. He later explained that under the “holistic” scoring approach used by the board, the preponderance of fives meant the overall evaluation rating would be a five, not a fractional four-point-something average.
Aside from his ringing endorsements, Stringfellow did offer a few suggestions for the year ahead. One was “to continue to evaluate and address security issues within the school system, which you are doing, more than just the athletic events but our security issues as a whole.”
Though he didn’t single it out, Stringfellow’s remark appeared to be motivated in part by a recent shooting incident at a football game in Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The system responded by beefing up security procedures at such events.
There was some back-and-forth between District 4 Commission Robert Battles and Threadgill over the issue of selecting principals. Battles said that commissioners often are the first place members of the public turn when they have a problem with a principal, so he wanted their input on selections to carry weight; Threadgill asserted that regardless of how much consideration the board’s views were given, the final decisions were his. Despite his concerns, Battles made clear that he thought Threadgill had made good calls. “I think you’ve been doing a great job,” he said.
Crenshaw’s comment about divine providence referred specifically to rumblings in spring 2018, as the board was preparing to choose the next superintendent, that the idea of splitting off a separate Mobile city school system was beginning to gain traction with some city leaders. Rumors of a study and other steps in that direction have died away since Threadgill’s appointment, and Mayor Sandy Stimpson has made a point of publicly endorsing his leadership.
“I think the relationship you developed with our mayor, Sandy Stimpson, really threw water on the fire, just put it out,” said Crenshaw. “I thought that was great.”
“I like the way you handle the crisis situations in the community, i.e. the situation at the stadium,” Crenshaw added. “I think the Lord sent you here, I really do. The timing was right. In the face of all the crisis we had, we needed a new face with fresh ideas put on this system”
Crenshaw said after the meeting that the talk of a split “had me very nervous, just to be honest with you, what the city was trying to do.”
“It would have been just a tremendous disservice to the children of Mobile County and also the taxpayers to have the system split,” he said. “Mr. Threadgill coming in, healing that, putting a healing touch on that relationship, I think was tremendous. I just think the Lord put him here at the right time, that Mobile was ready for that type of transition.”
Threadgill said after the meeting that improving relationships with city leadership had been “a huge part” of his work in his first year as superintendent. “I bring people together to do what’s right for kids,” he said.
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