Waco School Board names Belton ISD head as lone superintendent finalist

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) The Waco School Board named Belton ISD Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon as the lone finalist for the superintendent’s job Wednesday evening.

Belton Superintendent Dr. Susan Kincannon is the sole finalist for the Waco ISD superintendent's job. (BISD photo)

Kincannon was selected from among 84 applicants.

“Dr. Kincannon is passionate about the students that she serves. She believes that every student deserves an education that will set them on the path to realizing their full potential. More than that, her experience, her expertise in curriculum and instruction, her knowledge of our district, and her connections to resources in our region and across the state make Dr. Kincannon the right person to lead Waco ISD forward,” Waco School Board President Angela Tekell said in a press release.

The board voted 5-1 in her favor with trustee Norman Manning dissenting--trustee Stephanie Korteweg was not present.

Kincannon is a graduate Copperas Cove High School who received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, a master’s degree in educational administration from Tarleton State University, and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Baylor University.

She has 30 years of public education experience including stints as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent and deputy superintendent.

“As educators, every day, we have the opportunity to make that difference for our students, to truly see their potential and to help them know that they are special,” Kincannon said.

She has been the Belton ISD’s superintendent since 2011, but she has a strong connection to Waco.

Waco is a special place for my family,” Kincannon said.

“My daughter attends Baylor University, and my husband’s company does business here. We own a home in Waco and plan to retire here. I’m excited to meet our educators, spend time on our campuses, and most of all to serve Waco’s families.”

The Belton School Board meets Thursday night to discuss personnel in a closed session.

“For the past eight years under Dr. Kincannon’s leadership, Belton ISD has been a destination school district. Her leadership has also made it a welcoming place for all of our families. Dr. Kincannon has celebrated our diversity and helped to build a genuinely inclusive culture,” Belton School Board President Sue Jordan said.

Kincannon's start date with Waco will be set when contract negotiations are finalized Aug. 29--nine days into the school year.

"Not the best timing, but we really didn't have a choice in our timing, we worked quickly after Dr. Nelson resigned and here we are in August," said Tekell.

Pending the final vote in three weeks, Kincannon will replace former Superintendent Dr. Marcus Nelson, who stepped down on March 28 over a misdemeanor drug charge.

In his resignation letter, Nelson said he didn't want the question of his future to become a divisive issue.

The next week, Dr. Hazel Rowe, a Waco ISD superintendent from 2000-2001, was appointed as interim superintendent while the board searched for Nelson's permanent replacement.

Rowe expressed no interest in filling the job permanently.

At the time, Angela Tekell, who trustees elected as the new board president after Pat Atkins resigned, said, “The decision about Waco ISD’s next superintendent is easily one of the most important decisions that this board will make."

At a meeting in June, board members filled two vacancies on the board by appointing Robin Houston and Jose Vidana, which trustees said was vital to finding a new district leader.

The board also voted to hire the Texas Association of School Board’s Executive Search Services, the same company used to find and recruit Nelson, to begin looking for a permanent replacement.

"You can't deny his ability to unite and unify this community and their support of public schools...that's going to be tough to replicate or duplicate," Atkins, former board president, said at the time.

"But I do think there are other talented educators out there, and we're going to do a nationwide search and find the best possible candidate to lead the Waco public schools."

Tekell believes Kincannon is that candidate.

"This board knew we needed an instructional leader, that we need to shore up the academic performance of our schools," she said. "We're looking at grades coming out next week, I think, from the state that this board's not happy with and we're not willing to settle for."

This year's final accountability ratings are expected to be released Aug. 15.

In Nelson's less than two years with the district, he's credited with helping save a handful of struggling school's on the state's chopping block and unifying the diverse district.

"He brought communities to the table that had not been engaged," said Tekell.

Tekell says Kincannon has some big shoes to fill.

"I think what we heard throughout the search process was 'don't leave us behind, don't let what we've accomplished over the last two years go by the wayside with your next choice,'" said Tekell. "So I do think Dr. Kincannon will have her work cut out for her because not only do we have needs here in instruction and for us to get academically where we want to be, where we need to be, she also will be falling on the heels of a very dynamic, charismatic leader."

Nelson was arrested on March 6 during a traffic stop in Robertson County and released the next day on his own recognizance.

In a plea deal with Robertson County prosecutors, the marijuana possession charge was dismissed after Nelson completed a 90-day diversion program and paid a $500 fine.

Tekell is hoping Kincannon will bring some stability back to the district.

"We want to support our staff, provide them the resources they need to be successful in the classroom, and we want to provide leadership our community expects from us as a board and from our new superintendent," said Tekell.

"So a lot to be done, there have been a lot of changes, but I'm proud of this board, we've been through a lot since March, so I think the board is looking for things to quiet down a little bit," she said.