By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County residents are due to find out the names of up to three people Wednesday, who are in the running to be the school system's next superintendent, according to Board of Education Chairperson Alieka Anderson.
Clayton County Schools must hire a permanent superintendent to fulfill a mandate from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to get the school system off probation. The school system regained its accreditation - on a two-year probationary status - Friday.
The school board approved conducting a national superintendent search in January, with the intent of having a permanent superintendent in place by July 1.
"We're going to stick with our original July 1 deadline," Anderson said. "We could get through the interviews and decide we don't like any of the candidates and want to keep on searching."
The person who is hired as Clayton County's superintendent will be taking over after a two-year period of turnover, which has seen the district go through four interim and permanent school chiefs.
"The first step to renewal and transformation of the school system is securing the proper leadership," a SACS review team wrote in a report on the school system last month. "It is imperative that the community, staff, and Board of Education aggressively and appropriately seek and secure the services of a qualified and capable superintendent of schools."
Attorney Glenn Brock, who is conducting the superintendent search and acting as the district's legal counsel, said the list of superintendent finalists to be released this week could be as short as one person, or it could be as long as three people.
Once the finalists are announced, the school board will wait at least 14 days - per state law - before it can hire anyone to lead the school system, according to Brock and Anderson. Brock said that period is a time for the community to be introduced to the candidates. "You can't hire a superintendent in Georgia without waiting 14 days after you announce the finalists," Brock said.
Anderson said the school board will hold community forums during the 14-day waiting period so local residents, and other school system stakeholders, can meet the finalists.
"Within those 14 days, we're going to have the community come out and meet the superintendent candidates, and vice versa, so the community can ask questions, and the superintendent candidates can answer them," Anderson said.
Anderson and Brock said they could not confirm media reports that Chino Valley (Calif.) United School District Superintendent Edmond Heatley was a finalist for the position, because of confidentiality issues. Clayton County Schools Interim Superintendent Valya Lee said she interviewed for the permanent school chief position on Friday evening, but she declined to explain why she agreed to interview, after having said earlier that she would not go after the position.
Anderson said the board has interviewed six people for the job.
Offering congratulations for re-accreditation
During the school board's meeting on Monday, board members took an opportunity to congratulate the people who supported them during the last few months, as the district worked to regain its accreditation. The recipients of the congratulations ranged from board members, to their family members, to former Superintendent John Thompson.
"This board has stuck together and done a wonderful job," Anderson said.
"We have such diverse personalities ... but we do come to a point where we can get along with each other," board member Pamela Adamson said as she began to cry.
"I called Dr. Thompson over the weekend, and thanked him, as wel,l because it was his name that was on the report that was sent to SACS," said board member Jessie Goree. "He took a lot of heat while he was here ... but I did say 'Thank you' to him."
Some board members also asked community members to continue holding the board accountable for its actions.
"I want to caution the community that we are more fragile today than we were three days ago [Friday]," said board member Charlton Bivins, who led the community watchdog group, Concerned Citizens of Clayton County, before he was elected to the board. "We still have to maintain the type of focus that got us our accreditation back.
"We are still tip-toeing right now, but expect that from us until we get our full accreditation back," Bivins said.