Diane Barrett signed a contract with the Searcy School District Monday at a special board meeting and will begin her duties as the new superintendent on Thursday, July 1.
Barrett, who is superintendent of the West Fork School District and has been in education for 34 years, will replace Tony Woods, who is retiring after 18 years at Searcy. Barrett said Searcy is the only district where she applied.
"My husband works in North Little Rock, and we've had a commuter marriage for 13 years,” Barrett said. "Searcy has a great reputation for the community and the schools.”
Barrett was with the McGehee School District for 30 years. Twenty-four of those were as a teacher, and she spent six years in administration. The last four years, Barrett has been superintendent for the West Fork School District, near Fayetteville.
None of the Searcy School Board members had met Barrett prior to her interview with them in March, Liles said.
"We were impressed with her common sense, her history of making wise decisions and her easy-going people skills, and we feel she was the best fit for our district to replace Mr. Woods,” Liles said.
Liles also said he believes the board members had a sense of peace after their interview with Barrett.
"The board feels we have a top-notch school district,” Liles said. "We plan on improving it even more with the guidance of Mrs. Barrett. She's got a head full of sense.”
When Woods announced his intent to retire, the school board decided it didn't have the time or the expertise to do the search on its own. Recruitment firm McPherson & Jacobson was brought in to help in mid-January. All the applications were turned in for the board's review by Feb. 11, and the last interviews were conducted March 18. The recruiting firm specializes in helping schools find superintendent applicants who fit the specific needs and desires of a school district.
"The job market for superintendents is kind of tight right now with all the districts that are looking,” said Michael Liles, school board president.
The Batesville School District is also using the firm to help locate a new superintendent, along with Bryant, Mountain Home and Pulaski County Special in Little Rock.
Woods came to the Searcy School District in 1992 but has a 38-year career in education.
When asked what he would do with his extra time after retirement, Woods laughed and said, "I'm going to ride my bicycle and play with my new backhoe.
"It's just going to be a total shock, since I've been doing this for 38 years.”