Longtime Decatur educator Ed Nichols will become Madison City Schools' superintendent next month, and he believes his overall experience, including a brief stint as that system's interim superintendent, led to his hiring.
Nichols, 59, led the system for three months in early 2017 after Dee Fowler retired as superintendent in late 2016.
“That gave me an opportunity to get to know them and their leadership team,” Nichols said. “Having been in the same school system for most of my adult life, it was great to see how other schools work and run.”
The Madison school board unanimously approved Nichols on Wednesday to be the fourth superintendent since the system was founded in 1998. James Clemens High Principal Brian Clayton and Bob Jones High Principal Sylvia Lambert were also finalists for the position.
School board president Ranae Bartlett said familiarity with Nichols and his experience played a big part in his selection.
“He had relevant current experience with our system,” he said. “There was a comfortableness with him since he had been here before.”
Nichols served as Decatur City Schools superintendent from 2012-2016. Before that, he was deputy superintendent from 2003-2012. He has been the interim principal at Decatur High since January.
“I look forward to getting back and engaging with kids and teachers,” he said.
Nichols said he will start work in Madison on June 1. In the meantime, he will help transition incoming Decatur High Principal Leslie Russell into her role. She will take over on June 1 as well after being hired April 30 by the Decatur school board. She spent the past year as principal at Oneonta Middle School.
“We’re already helping her get to know the community and get a feel for what it’s like,” he said.
Nichols said he will spend the first two months as superintendent making connections with the people in the school system.
“The first thing I’m going to do is get engaged with the community and meet people,” he said.
Nichols also faces challenges. Like all systems statewide, Madison City Schools is trying to figure out how to restart classes in the fall when concerns about the coronavirus pandemic could remain.
“I’m in conversations with leadership on how to get school started in the fall,” he said. “There are several challenges, including the growth in student population.”
Bartlett described Nichols as “the right leader at the right time” after saying that the school system “has always been blessed” to have little turnover at the position.
Nichols spent 28 years working in Decatur City Schools. He first joined the system in 1988 when he became band director at Austin High. He later served as principal of the school for five years.
He has worked part-time with Decatur Morgan Hospital but said he'll end that work this month. Nichols was making $143,000 when he retired in May 2016 as DCS superintendent. A Huntsville attorney with the firm handling Madison's superintendent search said last month the job would have a starting annual salary of about $180,000.
Nichols said he plans eventually to move to Madison but will stay in Decatur for now. His daughter, Meredith, will be a senior at Decatur High in the fall.
“I’m very honored. It’s a great school system,” he said. “I’ve worked in a great school system before, and now, I get to work in a new one.”