Dennis Fisher’s job as superintendent of the Huntsville School District lasted for one semester.
Last Thursday, Fisher was relieved of his job by the Huntsville School Board (see story on Page 1A). St. Paul Principal Audra Kimball was named interim superintendent until June 30.
Fisher was reassigned as assistant superintendent and his contract will not be renewed when it expires on June 30. School Board President Danny Thomas said it’s up to Fisher whether he stays with the district until June 30 or resigns.
Numerous issues surfaced during Fisher’s time as superintendent, at least those we know about. Some weren’t his direct blame, to be sure.
Issues included that his choice for assistant superintendent was sent home with pay; the dean of students at the high school got caught sending text messages to an Elkins football coach; problems developed with the plan to build Career and Technical Education buildings in Huntsville and St. Paul; and uncertainty between Fisher and the board appeared when a nonprofit group offered part of the old Walmart building for the CTE buildings.
Sometimes one had to wonder how much communication went on between the board and Fisher.
It appears that Fisher was brought into a tough situation without a lot of experience on how to deal with such problems. This was Fisher’s first job as a superintendent.
Fisher was hired in April 2019 over more than 30 other applicants for the job. Applications came from various other states and from within Arkansas. Several applicants were already superintendents, meaning they had the experience the local school district needed.
Fisher when hired was athletic director for Mulberry and Pleasant View Public Schools and the Pleasant View junior high and intermediate school principal.
Mulberry/Pleasant View is a Class 1A school while Huntsville is a Class 5A school district.
I think therein lies part of the problem. Small schools face their own share of problems, for sure, but I figure the bigger the school the bigger the set of problems. I don’t think Fisher was ready or equipped to deal with the larger set of problems.
The current school board certainly has to look at itself and decide what went wrong. Did they hire the wrong person? Did they hire him for the wrong reason? Did gender play a role in the hiring of a man? Did they truly overlook a better qualified applicant? Each board member can answer that question for themselves.
I don’t think Fisher and his choice for assistant superintendent ever had the support of the district’s teachers and administrators. It’s no secret that a lot of people in Huntsville questioned the hiring of the new superintendent when it happened last year. You heard the rumblings around town and on social media.
Fisher and the school board ran afoul last year by holding meetings without notifying the local media, changing the locations of the CTE buildings at the two schools, and other issues.
Last September two board members and Fisher met with numerous community members to review plans for the CTE buildings. A third school board member took part by telephone.
The local media – meaning The Record – was not notified of the meeting.
When confronted later as to why The Record wasn’t informed of the meeting, Fisher insisted it wasn’t a meeting.
When told it legally was a meeting because at least three board members were present and discussed public business, Fisher stated, “Well I don’t know what else to say.”
Asked if minutes were taken at the meeting, Fisher stated that no minutes were taken because “it was not a meeting.”
Thomas, after Thursday’s meeting, was asked if he wanted to say why Fisher was demoted. He said, “respectively, no,” but then did say there were “just several different areas that needed attention.” He said the board did not feel Fisher could lead the district in those areas.