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Search moving forward

By Greg Gelpi

Dates have been scheduled for the first interviews for Clayton County's school superintendent position as the national search moves into its next phase.

The Clayton County Board of Education met Thursday night, its third meeting in a week and the second to discuss the search.

Don Rooks, legislative specialist with the Georgia School Boards Association, said the board will conduct its first round of interviews Nov. 21 and Nov. 22, interviewing five applicants during the two days. The board chose the five from a list of 41 applicants who applied for the position.

Although the board chose the five undisclosed applicants to interview, Rooks said no one has been eliminated.

At a meeting Monday night, though, board member Bob Livingston mentioned that the list of names had been reduced.

When asked if the board reduced the list, board member Ericka Davis only laughed and said she couldn't answer, as all board members remained tight-lipped following Thursday's meeting.

At Thursday's meeting, board members finished reviewing "reference reports" of the applicants, Rooks said, explaining that the board discussed background information, such as professional references, credit histories and any criminal incidents of the applicants.

"It was basically more of the same," Rooks said.

Saturday the board received the names of the 41 applicants for the first time, discussing the list of names and receiving training from the GSBA on how to narrow the list of names and how to conduct interviews.

GSBA attorney Phil Hartley advised the board not to disclose the names of the applicants, advice all nine board members are following.

"We're doing good," board member Allen T. Johnson said. "That is about all we're going to say."

In accordance with Georgia law, the board must release the names of the final three candidates when the board reaches that point.

"We're still pretty far from that," Rooks said.

The superintendent position became vacant when the board fired Superintendent Dan Colwell. The board later bought out the remainder of his contract. Since then, William Chavis has been working as the interim superintendent.

The board contracted with the GSBA to conduct a national search for a superintendent.

The search is one of the steps recommended by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the school system's accrediting agency. SACS placed the system on probation in May for the board violating its own policy. SACS has issued two reports with recommendations for the system to follow to keep its accreditation.

Conducting a national search and hiring a new superintendent are crucial to the probation being lifted, said Mark Elgart, the executive director of the SACS Commission on Secondary and Elementary Schools. Once a permanent superintendent is in place, the other violations should be resolved, he said.

A SACS review team visited the school system last month and found only "cosmetic" improvements had been made and "significant challenges" remained.

SACS will return in the spring. At that time, SACS will lift probation, extend probation or revoke the system's accreditation.

If accreditation is revoked, the school system's graduating seniors won't be eligible for the state's Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) scholarship program.