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School chief: More administrative shakeups ahead

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Corrective Superintendent John Thompson is planning to improve performance in the school system by continuing to shake up many of the district's administrative positions.

Those positions range from people whose offices are located in the system's central office, to principals in the district's eight high schools.

Thompson said experience matters on Monday, after a board of education meeting, and he feels some of the people running the school system do not have the experience needed to do their jobs. He said the lack of experience is a key reason why the school system is struggling academically.

Last month, the Georgia Department of Education announced that 29 Clayton County schools, the most since the No Child Left Behind Act was signed into law in 2001, failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) standard during the 2007-08 school year.

"If you're an administrator in this district, you had better be worried about your job, because I am not happy about the way this school system is performing academically," Thompson said.

The superintendent has been shaking up the administrative tree since he arrived in late April. In May, he made all of the district's administrators reapply for their jobs. Thompson simultaneously created the new administrative position of deputy superintendent, and appointed Judith Simmons, a former colleague from Pittsburg, to fill the position.

Many of the vacant positions he has filled in the last two months, though -- such as chief financial officer, legal counsel and chief information officer -- have been positions vacated by people who either retired or took jobs elsewhere.

Julie Lewis, a former legal counsel for the Georgia Department of Education, for example, was appointed in May as the district's new legal counsel. She replaced Dorsey Hopson, who left in May to take a similar job with the Memphis (Tenn.) school system.

Thompson said he is working on a new organizational chart, and that the only assistant superintendent positions that will remain are the assistant superintendents of elementary schools, middle schools and high schools. Thompson also plans to dissolve some administrative positions next April, when administrative contracts are up for renewal.

Thompson is still seeking a chief academic officer, which is the most important position he has left, he said. This position was split into two positions, one for middle and high schools, and one for elementary schools in August 2007, by former Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan. Thompson is re-merging the positions, and would only say a national search is being conducted to fill the post.

"The chief academic officer position is probably one of the toughest to fill, throughout the nation," Thompson said. "We're trying to make the best decision we can about who will fill this position."

The superintendent indicated on Monday that the shakeups may reach all the way down to the principals at each of the district's eight high schools. He already has to name a new principal at Riverdale High to replace Duncan, who left the job in July 2007 when she became the interim superintendent.

While Thompson did not say if any specific high school principals are in danger of losing their jobs, he indicated more heads could roll since the district typically only has two or three high schools make AYP in any given year.

"I think the most experience any of our high school principals have is five years," Thompson said. "It's all about leadership, and putting the right people in the right positions."

Thompson's recent appointees include:

· Roger Reece was appointed as chief financial officer on July 28. He replaces Theresa McDugald, who left the district in April for a similar job with Fulton County Schools. Reece has worked as a chief financial officer in several school systems, Thompson said.

· Joseph Jones was appointed as chief operations officer on July 28. This position was last held by Brian Miller until August 2007, when it was dissolved by Duncan. Jones previously worked in high-level financial and facilities positions for school systems in Atlanta; Gary, Ind., and Kansas City, Mo.

· Larry Conner was appointed as the chief of human resources on July 28. He replaces Jackie Hubbert, who retired in June. This job was previously an assistant superintendent-level position. Conner was one of several consultants Thompson brought in to help deal with the system's ongoing accreditation crisis. The superintendent said he worked with Conner at the Kentucky Department of Education in the early 1990s, where Conner eventually worked his way up to the chief of human resources position. Conner ceased to be a consultant for the district when he expressed an interest in the vacancy earlier this summer.

· Angie Bacon was appointed as the chief information officer on Monday. She replaces Steve Holmes, who retired this summer. Bacon is a 20-year employee of the school system, most recently serving as the district's director of instructional technology.