BOE moves toward 'corrective' superintendent

By Daniel Silliman

and Curt Yeomans


Two finalists for corrective superintendent were named by the Clayton County school board in a specially called meeting Saturday.

After unanimously accepting the search firm's recommendation to delay the hiring of a permanent superintendent, and instead, hire a corrective superintendent -- someone to "turn things around" as the system faces the loss of its accreditation -- Board of Education Chairperson Ericka Davis announced the names.

John W. Thompson, of Greensboro, N.C., began his education career as a math teacher and has served as superintendent of school systems in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Tulsa, Okla.

Santiago V. Wood, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., began his career teaching English as a second language and GED preparation for at-risk youths and high school dropouts in Oakland Calif. He currently operates an educational consulting firm, focused on low-performing districts. He has been the superintendent of schools in Fresno, Calif.

Richard Green, from the search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, Ltd., told the board members during a morning training session that the candidates are currently "achieving what you need achieved."

"Both have been in districts where the board has needed a lot of work," he said.

Thompson and Wood were interviewed for two hours each in executive session Saturday.

Though the Board of Education's agenda called for the appointment of one of the two men, the agenda item was removed. Green advised board members they couldn't make the appointment without working out contract negotiations.

"You can't do it today," Green said. "Get that out of your head. Unless, of course, you pick this up [contractual requests] and say, 'Give him whatever he wants.'"

State law also requires that the names of finalists be public for 14 days before the board takes a final vote.

"We'll have a called meeting at that point to appoint a corrective superintendent," Davis said.

The corrective superintendent is expected to be appointed on Saturday, March 29, or no later than Monday, March 31. He is expected to serve for one year, and will be charged with making "significant progress" toward the improvements required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) by Sept. 1.

The school board's meeting was held at the same time the 33-member AdvancED Accreditation Commission, the parent organization of SACS, met in Chicago to vote on a recommendation to revoke the Clayton schools' accreditation. Asked about the move to put in a corrective superintendent, Mark Elgart, president of SACS' Council on Accreditation and School Improvement, said it could be a good thing.

"I understand the rationale they are using for this," he said. "Time will tell if it's the right decision, though. Every one could look back on this and say it was the best decision for the school system."

Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan did not attend the meeting. She was given a perfunctory "thank you" by board member Rod Johnson, but her future was left in doubt.

A motion was made to end Duncan's tenure as interim superintendent at the appointment of the corrective superintendent, but the motion was withdrawn on the recommendation of the board's lawyer. The item was then removed from the agenda.

The meeting, which lasted about 10 minutes between executive sessions, was sparsely attended. Some community activists challenged the board, but received no response.

John Trotter, president of the Metro Association of Classroom Educators, complained loudly, before and after the meeting, but was ignored by everyone, except the security guard.

Jessie Goree, a school system employee and the parent of a high school junior, protested that the meeting was illegal, claiming proper public notice wasn't given.

Dexter Matthews, president of the county's chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, "Can you explain that?" when the board voted to not talk about Duncan's contract. Chairperson Davis responded with "Excuse me," and moved on to the next item.

The board's next regularly scheduled meeting is March 24, at 7 p.m., at the Central Administration Complex, at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.