Superintendent list includes applicants from a variety of areas

By Greg Gelpi

Nineteen of the 41 applicants for Clayton County's top school position are current or former superintendents and 16 of them are from Georgia.

The Georgia School Boards Association released general information regarding the applicants, which show that 17 are superintendents and two are former superintendents. Sixteen are from Georgia, while other applicants come from both coasts and 16 other states, Don Rooks, GSBA legislative specialist, said.

Rooks also reported that eight applicants are assistant superintendents and another is an interim superintendent. There are also three directors, an adjunct professor, a chief academic officer, three principals, a chancellor, two consultants, a coordinator and a president who applied.

Most of the applicants, 33, have doctoral degrees with 27 having doctorates of education.

Rooks said while the GSBA does not ask applicants to give their sex or race, a look at the names shows that at least eight are women and possibly as many as 10.

Besides the Georgia applicants, the profiles show there are one each from Texas, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey, Washington, Illinois, California, Kansas and Indiana. There are two each from Florida, Tennessee, Virginia, Minnesota and North Carolina. There are three each from Alabama and South Carolina, the two states that border Georgia.

A comment about the 11 finalists at Monday night's board meeting by Board member Bob Livingston indicates that the process of whittling down the applicants has already begun. He said his goal is to have the list down to three by the end of Thursday's meeting.

The school system contracted with the GSBA to conduct a national search for a superintendent. The school board fired its former superintendent Dan Colwell and later bought out the remainder of his contract. Since then, William Chavis has served as interim superintendent.

Chavis is believed to be one of those who applied, the one listed as interim superintendent. Others like DeKalb schools official Lonnie Edwards and a few other administrators from Clayton County are believed to be on the list since they were on the list of a dozen or so who applied in an earlier scaled-down search.

The board met with the GSBA in executive session Saturday to discuss interviewing and hiring procedures and the list of applicants for the superintendent position.

GSBA attorney Phil Hartley directed the nine Clayton County Board of Education members not to disclose information from the board meeting, a direction that school board attorney Gary Sams supported.

"Certainly I advised that they keep it that way," Hartley said. "Executive session by definition is confidential."

He explained that applications for employment are not subject to open records laws.

Although the board members are not legally bound by the order, Sams said they are ethically bound.

"If (the list of names) leaks out, it can impair the standings of the applicants," Sams said.

As the school board's attorney, he can't order the board members to do or not do anything, he said, but he can advise them on legal and ethical matters.

Hartley said the same. He can only advise. He cannot order the board.

"It's a violation of ethics," Sams said. "Everything that was said was confidential. I can't tell you anything that happened in the meeting."

Rooks, who is acting as a "go between" for the school board and the applicants, said the school board is devising a process to decide who to interview, when to conduct these interviews and finally who to hire.

State law requires that at least the top three finalists be disclosed to the public.

Board member LaToya Walker wouldn't go into detail regarding the applicants, observing the advice of Hartley and Sams, but expressed optimism with the hiring process.

"Of course, we're moving in the right direction," Walker said. "I'm happy. I'm pleased with the progress we've made so far."

Barbara Wells, another board member, refused to say anything, though, with respect to the superintendent search or the gag order.

"I'm not going to comment on anything regarding the superintendent search," she said.

At Saturday's meeting, the board immediately closed the meeting to the public and went into executive session.

Rooks said Saturday's meeting involved the board members "primarily going over applicants with a healthy dose of training."

The training concentrated on interviewing and contract negotiations, he said.

Although no timeline has been set, all board members agree that the process must move along quickly, Walker said.

A meeting to continue discussion of the 41 applicants is "tentatively" set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Rooks said. That session is also expected to be closed to the public.