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BOE decides schedule for superintendent search

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County Public Schools will have a permanent superintendent by July 1, if the Board of Education sticks to the timeline it approved Wednesday night, said a member of the firm handling the search.

Representatives from the Illinois-based search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates came to the board asking for decisions about dates for future meetings, and the number of candidates to be interviewed by the board this spring.

The goal is to have someone leading Clayton's schools on a permanent basis before the 2009 Fiscal Year begins.

"We think we'll have a good superintendent search for this school system," said Dr. Richard Greene, one of the firm's associates.

The board decided to let representatives of the firm come down on Jan. 29 and 30, and meet with students, teachers, union leaders, administrators, local politicians and community groups, to create a profile of the school system. Applications for the position will be due on March 1. The firm will give the board three candidates on April 16, and two-hour interviews with each candidate will occur on April 21 and 26.

The board will then decide to narrow the field to one or two candidates, or reject all three candidates and ask the firm for three more. A visit by the board to the final candidate's school system will take place in May. The final candidate will also spend a day in Clayton County schools, and face questions from local residents.

The board members decided all candidates from inside, and outside, the school district will be treated equally.

Greene said it will cost $4,000 to advertise the search in publications that target the education field, on the internet and in newspapers. It will cost an additional $750 to have background checks done on the candidates.

The board also determined that the search firm will meet with the community when it is working on a profile of the school system, and residents will get to grill the finalists for the superintendent position.

Public feedback forms will also be made available to the community this month so residents can have their voice heard in the profile-creating process. Greene said the existing record for forms returned during a search was 1,000 in the search for a superintendent of the Jefferson County, Ky., school system.

"We'll beat that," said Ericka Davis, the chairperson of the Clayton County Board of Education.

Greene told the board community involvement will be key, particularly when the finalists spend a day visiting the school system later in the spring. Each candidate will have an opportunity to meet with the community at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center at the end of his or her one-day visit.

Davis said she is happy to see the community have opportunities to participate in the decision-making process. When the board searched for a new superintendent in 2003, a small group of four board members, including former chairperson, Nedra Ware, were accused of allegedly conducting interviews in a hotel room.

These board members allegedly selected a final candidate without the knowledge of other board members, including Davis.

While a short list of candidates was created that summer, the process was thrown out in favor of a national search, which resulted in the hiring of Dr. Barbara Pulliam, who resigned from the position on July 23, 2007.

Gloria Duncan has been serving as the interim superintendent since Pulliam resigned. The contract Duncan signed the following month will end on June 30 of this year. Duncan was not available after the meeting on Wednesday to say if she was going to seek the position on a permanent basis.

Larry O'Keeffe, the father of a Morrow High School student, said he is glad the board gave Duncan a year to serve as interim superintendent. While it gave the board a year to search for Pulliam's permanent replacement, it also gives Duncan a year to fix problems she believes exist in the school system.

In other action, the board approved a resolution asking the Clayton County Legislative Delegation to create a state law authorizing an ethics commission for the board. The resolution was approved by a 5-1 vote.

"This will prevent the children from being the sole recipient of sanctions when board members violate our ethics policies," said Davis, who was referring to an ongoing investigation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. "Future boards will be able to come in and know there are repercussions for ethical behavior. In an election year for the state legislature, this is an important issue for them [the delegation]," she added.