Major has served our schools well

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What type of person would dedicate 40 years of his life to a career in education?

What qualities does a successful leader need to possess?

Those questions were recently posed to former and current colleagues of retiring Shelby County Schools Superintendent Evan K. Major, Jr.

Their answers included words such as &8220;dedicated&8221;, &8220;honest&8221;, &8220;trustworthy&8221;, &8220;caring&8221;, and &8220;full of integrity&8221;.

Their words help to paint a picture of a man who is truly leaving behind a legacy of dedicated service and leadership to the parents and children of Shelby County.

Years ago, before Evan ever indicated any interest in running for superintendent, a number of the board members were talking about potential candidates.

I suggested that Evan Major would be a good candidate. Another board member (who no longer serves on the board) disagreed, saying he was too nice to make the tough decisions the job requires.

Evan was elected eight years ago and over those years he has proven that one can indeed be a very nice person and still make the tough decisions it takes to be an outstanding superintendent. I have worked with four different superintendents during my 18 years serving on the Board of Education and all of them had different strengths. Evan, however, is the only one with whom I have worked during the entire 18 years I have served on the board, since he has been at the Central Office in many different capacities before being elected superintendent.

He has done an outstanding job at each task he was assigned.

Thus it was natural to expect he would do an outstanding job as superintendent, and he certainly has.

The system has grown and moved forward under his direction. He has made some very difficult decisions, but has always kept the children of Shelby County at the forefront of his decision making.

Deputy Superintendent John Wright has worked with Major for over 19 years.

According to Wright, Major always had the ability to walk like he was in the other person&8217;s shoes.

&8220;Evan knows people,&8221; Wright said. &8220;He always tried to think like a student, parent, teacher, principal or grandparent before he made decisions affecting them.

He is one of the best listeners I have ever known.&8221;

&8220;He has one of the tenderest hearts for children,&8221; added former Vincent Elementary Principal Patricia Corbett. &8220;As an administrator, he has been fair about every decision he has made.

He has always tried to do the right thing.&8221;

Cindy Forrester Gilbert, a former board member and special education instructor, said she has always been impressed with Major&8217;s honesty and dedication to the students of Shelby County, especially those with special needs.

&8220;He is the most honest person that I have ever worked with,&8221; Mrs. Gilbert said. &8220;He really cares about special needs children.

He always made a special effort to attend every one of our programs, even when it was hard for him to get away.

For a long time we didn&8217;t have a transition program to help get our special needs students into jobs.

Now, because of him, we have the best in the state.&8221;

Former Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jim Davis agreed that one of Major&8217;s strongest leadership qualities is his honesty and integrity.

&8220;Not everyone in administration has true leadership qualities,&8221; Davis said. &8220;But Evan is truly a leader.

If he gave you his word on something, you knew you could depend on him to carry it out.&8221;

Former Superintendent Ellie Glasscox praised Major for his loyalty to others, especially during tough times.

&8220;The thing that comes to mind about Evan is that he was always in the fox hole with me, no matter how tough the problem,&8221; Glasscox said. &8220;When the bullets started flying, some people had the tendency to ease out the back door – but not Evan.

He could always be depended on to stay on the front lines.

He is very loyal and brings out the best in people.

He treats everyone with the utmost respect and dignity.&8221;

Allen Fulton, who attended college with Major and had a parallel career as a teacher, principal and Central Office administrator, said it is his unwavering personality that led to his success.

&8220;He is not the kind of person to draw attention to himself,&8221; Fulton said. &8220;He just got the job done in a manner that everyone respected him for.

He has never wavered in his demeanor and always treated everyone fairly.

He has always been the same, regardless of the job.&8221;

Major is also highly respected and admired around the state, particularly in how he has handled the monumental task of explosive student enrollment (1,000 new students per year).

&8220;His leadership style has been instrumental in dealing with that growth, while also still focusing on student achievement,&8221; said State Superintendent Joseph Morton. &8220;It could have been very easy to get sidetracked, but he never took his mind off what was really important and that was the students of Shelby County.

I don&8217;t know anyone that could have handled it as well as Evan did.&8221;

I am very proud to have worked with Evan Major and especially proud to call him my good friend.

On behalf of the entire Shelby County education family, I would like to thank him for his tireless devotion to the &8220;boys and girls of Shelby County&8221;.

He will certainly be missed!

Dr. Lee Doebler serves as the president of the Shelby County Board of Education. He can be reached by e-mail at