Board under ?gag order'

By Greg Gelpi

The Clayton County Board of Education met to discuss its search for a superintendent Saturday, but closed the meeting immediately and is under a "gag order" not to talk about what occurred during the meeting.

The board met with Don Rooks, the legislative specialist from the Georgia School Boards Association, and Sam Harbin, an education attorney from Gainesville, regarding the 39 applicants for superintendent, the means by which the board will narrow the applicant pool and the proper way to interview the applicants.

"We're under a gag order from counsel," board member Allen T. Johnson said. "We just started the process. There's no news to report."

The board contracted with the GSBA to conduct a national superintendent search after being directed by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, to do so after the agency placed the school system on probation for violating its own policies. The board had tried to hire a superintendent previously, but the applications and other details of the process were not shared with all board members.

Under the current national search, the school board developed a list of qualifications for the position and directed the GSBA to conduct the search. The GSBA collected the applications, and a team screened the applicants, placing them in three groups based on their qualifications.

Saturday was the first time that anyone with the school board viewed the list of applicants. It is now up to the school board to decide how to proceed, although the GSBA will still advise the board if needed.

Despite contracting with the GSBA to perform the search, the board is not obligated to choose a superintendent from that list.

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

The board named William Chavis as the school system's interim superintendent after firing Superintendent Dan Colwell in January and buying out his contract.

The board will hold another called meeting at 6:30 tonight to discuss other SACS recommendations.

After the second SACS visit to the school system on Oct. 8 the board was cited for failure to address the initial SACS report issued in May. Monday's meeting is planned to discuss the SACS recommendations and the best way for the board to address them.

Among the recommendations from SACS, is a call for the board to define the roles and responsibilities of its members and superintendent, to stop meddling in day-to-day operations of the system and to follow its own policy.

SACS will return in the spring to review the progress of the school system. The accrediting agency will then lift the probation, extend the probationary period or revoke the system's accreditation depending on its progress.