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Short list of contenders is diverse

By Bob Paslay and Greg Gelpi

No administrator from Clayton County schools has emerged as a contender in the search for new superintendent, those close to the selection process said Monday.

So far, only one Georgia official has made the short list while a second garnered some support and might still be put back in the process if the first five to be interviewed do not produce a winner.

Meanwhile, Barbara Moore Pulliam, superintendent of St. Louis Park, Minnesota school district, has garnered support for the top spot in Clayton County.

She would be the first woman superintendent of the 52,000-student district, the sixth largest in Georgia. She is also black and would be only the second black to head the district, which is about two-thirds black.

She could not be reached for comment on Monday.

A current superintendent from the Midwest is also on the list to be interviewed. According to initial information, Midwestern candidates came from Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. Someone close to the process called his credentials "impressive."

One board member said there is no discussion of race in deliberations but his resume tends to indicate he is white.

Also in the final list of consideration is one Hispanic educator from Texas. Clayton County has a growing Hispanic population.

The only Georgia candidate on the short list is Stanley Pritchard, assistant superintendent of DeKalb schools.

Current Clayton County interim superintendent William Chavis did not make the first round of cuts. Also applying from the district were assistant superintendents Sam King and Jackie Hubbard and neither garnered enough support to be interviewed this Friday and Saturday.

Also out of the running, at least at the present time, are some area officials thought to have a strong chance of making the finalists.

Those include Marietta School Superintendent Harold Barnett, and DeKalb assistants Lonnie Edwards and Jim Williams.

Barnett was once assistant principal at North Clayton Junior (now Middle) School. He has told some other school officials at a recent administrators meeting he doesn't expect his contract to be renewed in Marietta.

Williams, whose name surfaced earlier, got four votes on the board but did not get the fifth to be interviewed first, someone close to the negotiations said.

Edwards, who was hand-picked by Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware and her board supporters earlier this year, also could not garner a fifth vote on the board to be put into the final list. He became a lightning rod for criticism when it appeared early on he was being anointed for the post.

Ware announced in a hurried-up process earlier Edwards as the choice of the selection committee. But with pressure from the Clayton County NAACP, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and from the public, the first search was scrapped and a nationwide one was conducted. The second search garnered almost four times as many applicants as the initial search.

Someone close to the deliberations said the board members agreed not to take any information from the closed-door sessions and this has led to some board members saying they don't even know who the top candidates are, relying heavily on the Georgia School Boards Association, which is overseeing the selection process.

On the advice of board attorney Gary Sams and GSBA attorney Phil Hartley, board members agreed not to take the list of names home. In fact, board members were not allowed to even take notes out of their closed-door meetings.

One board member said that Chavis, who has angered members from both board factions, was never seriously considered for the post. He was put in place by five board members after they voted at the first meeting this year to run off Superintendent Dan Colwell.

The list of 41 applicants from 17 states did not include an application from Colwell. One board member said he would not have had any votes on the board since board members wanted to move forward rather than go back.

Those close to the selection process emphasized that until the required three candidates are selected and the list is released to the public as required by law, it is possible for those who have been overlooked in the first two selection meetings to be put back in the running.

The board chose the applicants to interview by a simple vote up or down after Don Rooks of the GSBA gave a talk on the applicants. The board members didn't discuss the applicants or their qualifications before voting.

Georgia Press Association attorney David Hudson said at least three names must be released by the board, but there is no prohibition on releasing all the names if the board chose to do so.

But in addition to not taking the notes out, board members have agreed not to discuss the names of the contenders.

Pulliam holds a B.S. from Western Michigan University, an M.S. from Eastern Michigan University and an E.D from Vanderbilt University. She has been superintendent of the St. Louis Park schools since 1997. But after that time she was a finalist for superintendent of Delaware's largest district, the Christina School District.

Her resume indicates that she was a senior associate at the Illinois State Board of Education in Chicago from 1980 to 1984 and was director of the Bureau of Support Services for Chicago Public Schools from 1984-89. After that she served as principal of Harper High School from 1989 to 1993. From 1993 to 1994 she was senior program associate for the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C.

Just prior to taking the job in St. Louis Park, she was associate superintendent for Equity and Desegregation for Rockford Public Schools in Rockford, Illinois (1995-97).