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Clayton County administrators leaving for superintendent positions

By Ed Brock

Two of Clayton County Public Schools top level administrators are moving on to supervise school systems in Rockdale and Pike counties.

Assistant Superintendent of High Schools and Support Services Samuel King, 42, has been selected to be the superintendent for Rockdale County Schools. Also, Lovejoy High School Principal Michael Duncan, 34, will move up to the superintendent position in Pike County.

Both men officially start their new jobs on July 1.

Clayton County Superintendent of Schools Barbara Pulliam said she had mixed emotions about King's departure.

"While we are very happy for him and wish him nothing but success, we are also saddened to see him go," Pulliam said. "Since arriving in Clayton County, Dr. King has been one of our most highly valued administrators, demonstrating a keen ability to understand issues, research potential solutions and successfully implement strategies in response."

Pulliam also called King "a trusted advisor and a good friend."

A graduate of Mercer University in Macon, King said he started his career in education in 1984 as a fourth-grade math teacher in DeKalb County. He spent 10 years there teaching algebra and biology on all grade levels.

He came to Clayton County to become an assistant principal and later moved into the position as principal of Forest Park Middle School.

"When I think back to my middle school principal experience, I served as a successful instructional leader," King said.

The students at that school had some challenges. About 85 percent of the 850 students were economically disenfranchised and qualified for the free and reduced-price lunch program. Also, 87 percent were minority members and 10 percent had limited English proficiency.

"I really focus on the fact that we were able to improve student performance to exceed the national average in several subject areas (as measured by the Iowa Test of Basic Skills,)" King said.

The school was also recognized by the state for exceeding expectations.

King became an assistant superintendent for Area 3 in 2000 and, a year later, became assistant superintendent of high schools and support services. On that level, he is most proud of his work to implement the America's Choice School Reform Model that has been adopted by the National Center on Education and the Economy.

"We adopted that model in 14 schools that were considered schools that had issues with the percentage of students that did not meet standards," King said.

After that, the schools improved 16.33 percent in math, reading and language.

King said going on to the top administrative position in Rockdale County is a "major change," but his experiences in Clayton County and his professional development here have prepared him for the job. He is a graduate of the Governor's School Leadership Institute, the Georgia Schools Superintendents Association's Superintendent Training Institute, and he is one of 20 administrators nationwide selected to be a Broad Fellow of the Urban Superintendents Academy.

Duncan began his career in 1995, when he worked as a teacher at Flat Rock Middle School in Tyrone. He was hired to serve as assistant principal of Jonesboro High School in 2000, and, in 2002, he was promoted to the Lovejoy High School principal position.

"Dr. Duncan has made great strides in working with Lovejoy High School's students and staff as they worked to achieve academic success," Pulliam said. "During his tenure at LHS, he has been successful in his efforts to make the school an integral part of the Lovejoy and Hampton communities."

Duncan said he is most proud of the fact that he had very low teacher turnaround during his tenure at the school.

"The key to student achievement is to have very strong teachers and to keep them," Duncan said.

That provides the consistency the students need for success, he added. And the trick to keeping teachers is to provide a good climate, Duncan said.

"We've all enjoyed being there," Duncan said. "You get a little more out of people when they enjoy being there."

Going from being a school principal to superintendent of Pike County's 3,000-student school system isn't necessarily unusual, Duncan said. Most school systems in less urban areas don't have the assistant superintendent position.

"It's very common nationwide for principals to become superintendent," Duncan said.

He is excited about his new job, Duncan said, but he will miss Clayton County, where he has been surrounded by competent people.

"Clayton County has been a wonderful experience for me," Duncan said. "It's been a great training ground for this next step."