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Collum named Benton superintendent

February 15, 2012

Jeff Collum, shown here with wife Cara and two sons, Caleb, 5, and Elijah, 3, has been chosen as superintendent of the Benton School District. Collum will begin his duties in July. Benton School Board voted unanimously to offer the position to Collum in a 9 p.m. meeting Tuesday at the district's new professional development center (old high school library). Photo special to the Courier

There's a new superintendent-elect in the Benton School District.
In a 9 p.m. meeting Tuesday, the seven-member board unanimously voted officially to offer the job to Jeff Collum of Tyler, Texas.
Collum previously had agreed to accept the job for an annual salary of $132,500.
Collum currently is serving as executive director of secondary education of the Tyler ISD, which includes oversight for two 5A high schools, six middle schools, an athletic department, career and technology education and university initiatives.
Heath Nix, vice president of the board, presented the motion to choose Collum and board member Paul Viner seconded the motion.
Jeff Morrow, president of the Benton board, presided in the session and also voted for Collum after the six other members had cast their votes in his favor.
In Tuesday night's meeting, Morrow commended Dan Jordan, acting superintendent, for the leadership and professionalism he has displayed since he assumed the superintendent's responsibilities last April.
Jordan had applied for the position on a permanent basis. At the end of this term, Jordan will return to his former position of director of personnel and student services, Morrow said.
Morrow also noted that the board hopes to retain the services of Mary Morgan, who was serving as director of personnel and student services on an interim basis.
"We will be offering her a position," Morrow said. "She's done an awesome job."
Morrow said he believes the board "left no stone unturned" in checking out all of the superintendent candidates. Nineteen individuals applied for the job, which was narrowed at one time to eight, then to four.
Interestingly, Collum had not been included in the first cut because the board at that time was not considering anyone who did not hold Arkansas certification.
Collum was in the process of obtaining his certification and was added when the board reduced the field of eight to four finalists.
"We saw something special in Mr. Collum," Morrow said.
A Feb. 27 "meet and greet the superintendent" is planned, Morrow said.
"We believe people will embrace his leadership," he said. "He comes from a long line of educators."
Board member Joe Felan noted that the board members "have had our differences, but after we deliberated, it was very clear that we were together on this."
Viner said, 'I think we made the right decision. We were all in unison and feel like we have the right person for the job."
Morrow said Collum plans to devote "the first 100 days to listening to staff and getting to know every employee and their family."
He noted that Collum stated that if at any time that he is dealing with a student problem, he will always "make the best decision for the child."
Morrow pointed out that "change can be difficult ... but sometimes it is good. I think we can go forward."
Morrow said Collum "had done his homework and researched this area."
Board member Brad Bohannan said Collum will be "bringing a new set of eyes and ideas. He will be able to see the district from a different angle."
Collum currently is completing his 15th year as an educator. During his career he has served in various roles including teacher, coach, athletic director, dean of students, assistant principal, senior high school principal, executive director of student services, and executive director of secondary education. The school districts he has served range in size from 1A (approximately 500 students) to 5A (approximately 19,000 students).
In his current position, he supervises two large high schools (John Tyler High School has approximately 1,900 students and Robert E. Lee High School has around 2,700 students) and six middle schools, the district’s alternative school, the district’s athletic department, career and technology education and university programs.
His district currently is in the process of completing a long- range facilities plan that could result in building projects ranging from $150 million-$450 million. He also currently is overseeing the implementation of two large grants funded by the Texas Education Agency for approximately $12 million.
"I am extremely passionate and enthusiastic as a professional educator," Collum said in a letter to the Benton board. "I have a firm belief that all students can learn and that education is the key to the future."
Collum was the first of the four finalists to be interviewed Monday by the Benton board.
Candidates were interviewed at two-hour intervals throughout the afternoon and evening. The board had set aside an hour and a half for each candidate's interview, then allocated 30 minutes to review the candidate's responses to questions.
The final interview was with Jordan.
Also interviewed were Bradley G. Reed, director of student services of the Bentonville School District; and Larry E. Smith, superintendent of the White Hall School District. Smith grew up in Benton.
All of the interviews were conducted in executive session.

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