Pulliam making changes

By Greg Gelpi

Clayton County's new superintendent reassigned senior administrators within days of taking her position.

Barbara Pulliam moved the two highest senior administrators and she asked for the resumes of all administrators to put them where she sees fit.

Bill Horton, who served as the deputy superintendent for the past year, has been made the principal of East Clayton Elementary. Horton had previously been principal before being made interim deputy superintendent of the school system. Principal Mike Oglesbee retired leaving the position open.

William Chavis, the interim superintendent prior to Pulliam, was moved to the personnel department to help with recruiting. When his contract as interim superintendent ended, his contract as a senior administrator began.

"It was a temporary appointment," Pulliam said of both changes. "That is my understanding. I'm telling you there's no story here."

She would only respond "new leadership" to questions as to why she made the moves.

"I am the new leadership," Pulliam said. "Usually, that means change."

She commended both Horton and Chavis for their work for the past 13 months, yet stood behind her decision to make the move.

"I don't see the contradiction there," Pulliam said. "New leadership. That is why."

She began work Feb. 9 and admitted to still "studying" the system and preparing to "audit" the system's organization.

Pulliam directed all school officials to direct questions to the school system's public affairs department.

Pulliam answered questions on the changes after numerous attempts to get the information from her public relations department.

After repeated calls to Jerry Jackson, acting coordinator public affairs/community relations, he issued a statement.

"I am not privy to personnel matters that concern other employees, and therefore, may not be completely aware of all changes that have occurred in the administrative ranks within the school district," Jackson said in the statement. "There have been some reassignments of staff, which I perceive to be normal whenever there is a change of leadership. This is a part of the transitional phase that can occur with any incoming administration, and is a leadership practice that is oftentimes expected in top management."

When questioned further, Jackson said no one would cooperate with him.

"Nobody would give me the list of personnel changes," he said. "I'm not saying no one knows. No one will share it me. I can't give you what I can't get. That's the way it goes."

Jackson said there have been no "demotions," only "leadership changes."

That isn't true, Ed Scott, the assistant superintendent of personnel, said.

"Mr. Jackson never asked for a list," Scott said.

Scott would not disclose the complete personnel changes either.

In a meeting to discuss the changes, Pulliam referred to Jackson several times as "Mr. Johnson" and when told said she was not aware he was in an acting position. Jackson was left in that position after Chavis was told by some board members to move the public affairs coordinator Paul Kraack out of that job after the ouster of Superintendent Dan Colwell. An advertisement was run and resumes were received to find a replacement, but no action has occurred. Board Chairwoman Nedra Ware in a blast at the media last year said that Jackson was not the board's spokesman and did not speak for the board.

Pulliam moved to Clayton County from St. Louis Park, Minn., where she was superintendent of the school system of about 5,000 students, days before beginning work as superintendent in Clayton Feb. 9.

When Horton was called about the transfer, he said he was pleased with his new position, and proceeded to direct all other questions to senior officials.

While Horton served as deputy superintendent, he continued to be paid as a principal.

Clayton County Board of Education member Allen T. Johnson said the changes aren't unusual.

"As a Baptist, we always reserve the right for a new pastor to come in and make the changes he feels comfortable with," Johnson said. "Everyone should have that right. You can't find anything negative about those two moves."

The senior administration shakeup comes a year after teachers began fleeing the school system. Teachers went to other systems after the Clayton County system was placed on probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

SACS imposed the year-long probation in May for the school board's failure to follow its own policies and micromanagement.