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BOE suspends its schools chief search
'Corrective' superintendent to take the helm

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

An unnamed "corrective" superintendent is expected to take the helm of the Clayton County School System in the "next several weeks," and keep it for the rest of the year.

The seemingly sudden move suspends the search for a permanent superintendent until January 2009 at the earliest. The action is being taken even though a recent Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' investigative report mandated that a permanent school chief be in place by Sept. 1 of this year. That, and eight other requirements, were issued in order for the school to avoid losing its accreditation.

"The national search firm of Hazard, Young and Attea, hired by the Clayton [County] Board of Education, has recommended to the board that, due to current issues surrounding the board of education and the SACS investigation, the search for a permanent superintendent should be suspended until January 2009," Dorsey Hopson, the board's legal counsel said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

Board Vice Chairman Eddie White has confirmed the action, but deferred all questions to Hopson, and to Glenn Brock, whose law firm was hired to help the school board tackle the SACS issue.

Hopson, Brock, Board Chairperson Ericka Davis, Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan, or Dr. Mark Elgart, president of SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

According to the statement from Hopson, the "corrective" superintendent will be someone who is experienced at running a school system, but will not be a candidate for the permanent position. That person will work with attorneys to "help direct the actions needed to address SACS concerns and take other corrective actions."

SACS officials said earlier that the school system should lose its accreditation, because of micromanagement, unethical behavior and misuse of district funds.

The agency was also concerned that the board waited more than four months to hire a search firm to look for a permanent replacement for former superintendent, Barbara Pulliam, who resigned on July 23, 2007.

Interim Superintendent Duncan has been leading the district since Pulliam resigned. Duncan's contract was set to expire this summer.

"The first step to renewal and transformation of the school district is securing the proper leadership," according to SACS' Feb. 15 report on the district. "It is imperative that the community, staff and board of education aggressively and appropriately seek and secure the service of a qualified and capable superintendent of schools ...

"The school district must conduct a legitimate, professional search that results in securing the services of the best available candidate as the next superintendent of schools for Clayton County," SACS told the district.

The board recently approved a search profile of the kind of permanent superintendent being sought for 52,805-student district. It was posted on the search firm's web site a week and a half ago.

Duncan will not be eligible to hold the "corrective" superintendent position, because she is a candidate for the permanent job. A list of candidates to be the next permanent superintendent will be presented to the board in early 2009, said Hopson in his statement.

"The board wishes to express their appreciation for the service of Dr. Gloria Duncan as the interim superintendent," Hopson said. "She will be eligible for the permanent position, once a search has been re-opened and will continue as interim superintendent until a 'corrective' superintendent has been hired."