Board holding Saturday meeting

By Greg Gelpi

The Clayton County Board of Education will meet with the Georgia School Boards Association to discuss hiring a superintendent at 8 a.m. Saturday.

But if you're planning to go don't look for much excitement because most of the session will be in executive session with the public not allowed to watch.

The school board contracted with the GSBA to conduct a national search to replace Interim Superintendent William Chavis.

"As I understand it, this is going to help with the policies and procedures of interviewing the candidates we have," board member Allen T. Johnson said. "That's what we need. We really need a good superintendent."

Don Rooks, legislative specialist with the GSBA, and Sam Harbin, an educational attorney from Gainsville, will meet privately with board members behind closed doors to discuss what they can and can't ask applicants during the interview process.

No one from the school system will see the list of candidates until the meeting. When the board tried to hire a superintendent previously, some board members complained of never seeing a complete list of applicants.

"They will immediately go into executive session," Deputy Superintendent Bill Horton said of the process. "They will devise some kind of selection process."

Following the specifications prescribed by the school board, the GSBA advertised the position and collected 39 applications, Rooks said. The school board, though, doesn't have to hire from the list of GSBA applicants.

"They will more than likely follow the advice of the GSBA," Horton said.

They will also determine how they will narrow the list of 39 applicants to a shorter list of candidates that they can interview.

All of the discussions regarding the process of hiring a superintendent as well as the applicants for the position will be held in executive session.

"I would like to know, too, but they won't let me go back there," Horton said.

Johnson expressed interest in hiring a superintendent quickly.

"It's time for us to get on with this," he said.

Hiring a superintendent is crucial to its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, lifting the school system's probation, Mark Elgart, the executive director of the SACS Commission on Secondary and Middle Schools, said.

Once a superintendent is hired, everything else should fall into place, Elgart said. The other school system violations will be easier to resolve with a superintendent in place.

SACS visited the school system Oct. 8 to evaluate the system's progress in complying with its recommendations, but found "significant challenges" remained.

The school board will also meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday to officially address the concerns listed in the SACS reports, the first official meeting held by the system to discuss the SAS concerns since being placed on probation five months ago.

"They will be looking to develop a written action plan," Horton said, adding that some actions are already being taken, although they haven't been written down.

SACS will return in the spring. At that time, it will lift the probation, extend the probation or remove the system's accreditation. If accreditation is revoked, none of the roughly 52,000 Clayton County students will be eligible for the state's scholarship program, Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally.

The school system has been without a permanent superintendent since January when a majority of the board voted to oust Superintendent Dan Colwell. They later bought out the remainder of his contract after he sued.