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Clayton BOE begins search-firm inquiries
Illinois group to address board Monday

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

As the Clayton County Board of Education begins its search for a new superintendent, the firm which began a national search for the district in 2007 will get a chance Monday to defend its services.

The Illinois-based firm, Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, is scheduled to address the board for 45 minutes during the governing body's work session, which begins at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the district's Central Administration Complex, 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

The group had begun a search to find a permanent replacement for former Superintendent Barbara Pulliam in late 2007, but that search was put on hold when it was determined that a short-term, corrective superintendent would be hired instead. John Thompson was chosen for that job last April.

The school board is currently conducting a search to find someone to lead the district after Thompson's contract expires on June 30. "This is the start of a process, and we want to see what they have to bring to the table, and how that can help us reach our goal of hiring the best possible superintendent we can find," said BOE Chairperson Alieka Anderson.

The board will not take a vote, during the work session, on whether to continue to use the firm, Anderson said. However, she said, if the board does decide to have the firm continue its previous search, a public vote would take place in an effort to maintain transparency with parents and other community members.

"They have called and asked us to talk about what we have done already, and what we still had left to do," said Richard Greene, an associate with the firm. "I'm glad we're getting this chance. I think our record speaks for itself."

If the board chooses to use Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, officials from the company will meet with board members to make sure they want to continue using the criteria set by their predecessors, Greene said. The position would then be advertised, and candidates would have until mid-March to apply for the job.

Greene and other representatives would then interview applicants. A short list of candidates could be presented to the board for more interviews in April, or May. "Then, they could have someone in place on, or about, July 1," said Greene.

In the past, some board members have inquired about using other search firms, but some of those have since softened their stance toward Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates.

Board member Jessie Goree said she initially suggested that new board members separate themselves from the old school board by using a different search firm. A review of the [old] firm's abilities changed her mind, Goree said.

Board member Michael King said he, too, had a change of heart about the firm after talking with officials from the group. At a training session on Jan. 10, King had quizzed officials from the Georgia School Boards Association about top search firms in Georgia. King said Friday, however, that he favors continuing with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, if it will save money for the district.

The firm's search for Pulliam's permanent replacement was put on hold in March 2008, because of concerns that upcoming school board elections might dampen interest in the job. The board decided, instead, to hire a temporary, corrective superintendent.

The firm was in the process of accepting applications for the permanent position when the switch occurred. Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates brought two "corrective" candidates to the board a month later, one of the finalists being Thompson. At the time, school officials announced that the firm would return to the district this month to complete the permanent superintendent search.

Greene said the job of selecting a new superintendent may be easier than it was 12 months ago, because "there is a new board in place, and it appears that the new board is working together."

"Overall, however, I'd say the position is more attractive than it was a year ago," he said.

In other business, Thompson will present updates on the naming of the district's ninth high school, and academies at Morrow and Jonesboro high schools. Deputy Superintendent Judith Simmons will give an update on the school system's efforts to regain its accreditation. Lonita Collier, the district's purchasing director, will present plans on dealing with anticipated funding shortfalls.

James Wilson, a representative of the Gude Management Group, which is helping the school system with redistricting for high schools, will give a progress report to the board. School system officials will also discuss corrective action plans for schools which are on the state's Needs Improvement list.

Board members will also review the district's monthly financial, purchasing, Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax, personnel, and construction reports. These reports are information items only, and the board will not vote on them until its Feb. 2 business meeting.