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Second black to head schools

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County will have only its second black superintendent in the county's history. All three finalists named for the system's top spot are black.

The Clayton County Board of Education named Orlando, Fla. official Roy Brooks, Barbara Pulliam, a Minnesota superintendent, and DeKalb assistant superintendent Stanley Pritchett Sr. as finalists.

The national search that has been under "gag orders" and involved several meetings behind closed doors moved into the next phase in a matter of minutes.

In less than three minutes, the board unanimously approved naming the three finalists to the chagrin of some parents.

"You may look good on paper, but be a jerk in real life," parent Mary Baker said following the meeting.

The board saw the list of 41 applicants for the first time Nov. 8 and named three finalists 17 days later.

Baker said she hoped the board would explain the process it used to narrow the list so quickly, especially after remaining so secretive, but the board didn't.

Even though the county has a growing Hispanic population, a Texas Hispanic superintendent did not make the final cut.

Pritchett, the only finalist from within the state, works as the associate superintendent of business affairs and plant services at DeKalb County Schools.

DeKalb has more than 99,800 students, compared to Clayton's 52,000.

He pointed to his role in getting two special purpose local option sales taxes for schools passed in DeKalb County, including the county's first, in his application.

The revenue from the first SPLOST allowed DeKalb to build 10 new schools. Clayton County faces a similar situation with its SPLOST expiring in December 2004. The county needs to build more than a dozen new schools to keep pace with the growing student population.

Pritchett was named chief facilitator of both DeKalb SPLOST referendums.

With a new superintendent looming, some senior administrators fear for their jobs.

Pritchett promised change, but wouldn't say whether he would make personnel changes, he said in a phone interview Tuesday night.

"I think that's kind of premature to determine at this time," he said, adding that he would "make all changes that need to be done."

Brooks is an area superintendent of Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., and has 30 years of experience in education. His school system has more than 34,000 students.

"I believe the superintendent must be a results-driven leader, responsible for selecting a team of experts to reach the district's desired results," Brooks said in his application. "I will bring high standards of ethical and moral conduct consistent with my beliefs that ?good enough is not good enough' and the leader of the school district must lead by example."

If hired, Brooks will be entering a system swamped with complaints filed with the Education Ethics Division of the state Professional Standards Commission.

He could not be reached for comment. His phone number is unlisted.

Pulliam is the superintendent of St. Louis Park Schools in St. Louis Park, Minn., a system of 4,300 students. She also worked as the central officer director of a system of 450,000 students in the Chicago Public Schools System in the 1980s.

"Working with staff to obtain high levels of success with minority student achievement is one of my strengths," Pulliam said in her application. "I am certain that you will find my ability to develop relationships and build partnerships with parents, staff, students, community, and businesses, while building a cohesive administrative team focused on student achievement fits your vision of the leader needed for Clayton County Schools."

If named superintendent, she would be the county's first female superintendent.

She could not be reached for comment.

The school board contracted with the Georgia School Boards Association to conduct the national search for a superintendent after an initial search was scratched.

In the initial search, board chairwoman Nedra Ware and her board supporters handpicked Lonnie Edwards to be the next superintendent. Some board members, though, complained of never seeing a complete list of applicants.

The board launched the new search after outcries from the Clayton County NAACP, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the public.

The superintendent's position became open when the board fired Dan Colwell in January and named William Chavis interim superintendent. The board later bought out the remainder of Colwell's contract. Chavis applied for the opening but did not make the finalists. Colwell did not apply.

The school system has been placed on probation by SACS, its accrediting agency, for the board not following its own policy. Hiring a permanent superintendent is crucial to probation being lifted, Mark Elgart, the executive director of the SACS Commission on Secondary and Middle Schools, has said.

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

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

In an October visit, a SACS review team found only "cosmetic" improvements had been made.

The superintendent salary has not been decided. Pulliam currently makes $142,500. Brooks is paid $114,339. Pritchett makes $112,000.

The board bought out the remaining two years of Colwell's contract for $232,000.