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Henry school superintendent announces retirement

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Henry County Schools Superintendent Michael Surma has announced his plans to retire this year.

Surma, 59, has been with the county's school system for the past 15 years, serving his last two years as Superintendent of Schools. His retirement will be effective Dec. 31, 2010.

"I have no definite plans at this time," said Surma, who has served 35 years in education. "I would like to have some time to share new adventures with my wife. We will see what our future holds."

Surma's wife of 38 years, Marygrace Surma, retired earlier this year as teacher education program coordinator at Clayton State University. She believes her husband's retirement comes at a good time for him.

"I think he's done a fantastic job, myself," she said. "I know he really enjoys the people in the community, and the school board ... and everybody that he's had a chance to work with. I think he's done a really good job, and he has a lot to be proud of. And I'm very proud of him, too."

Surma replaced outgoing superintendent, Jack Parish, in 2008, during the economic downtown. Surma's tenure has been riddled with the concurrent challenges of managing population growth, and decreased state, and local funding.

"The most challenging part of my current job has been to keep our mission of ensuring educational success for our students at the forefront," Surma said Tuesday. "I would like to commend all members of our educational community for your efforts in making a real and measurable difference in the educational success of our students.

"Our assessment results, balanced scorecard results, and our community support, are all testimony to quality indicators, which make us one of the leaders in Georgia education," he said.

Surma began his educational mission 34 years ago in Illinois. He said he amassed more than 19 years of teaching and administrative experience there, before joining the Henry school system.

There, he served as a teacher for eleven years, an assistant high school principal for two years, and for six years as the chief, district-level administrator, responsible for the operation of the Illinois State University Laboratory School System.

Surma began his work in Henry as a science teacher at Henry County High School. He also served as Henry County's science coordinator, special projects coordinator, and as chief of staff, before his selection as superintendent.

He also served as the education liaison for Henry County Schools in the Georgia State Legislature, and was a founding member of the Henry County Outdoor Education Partnership, which involved the participation of groups within the school system, the community, and local government to develop and implement outdoor education.

"It's unfortunate that he can't be with us longer," said Ray Hudalla, chairman of the Henry County Board of Education. "He's done a very admirable job with the school system.

"Being superintendent of a large school system is very difficult, and will take its toll on you, and he came into this position when the financial bottom fell out from the state. He's just done a fantastic job," Hudalla said.

Surma said he considers himself to be a lifelong learner, and expects retirement will provide him, and his wife, many new learning experiences. "I look forward to having more time available to explore other interests and learning activities in my retirement," he said. "I'm not retiring for another job. It's just an opportunity in my life to see what other opportunities are out there. After 35 years in education, I would like to spend some quality time with my wife, and be able to have the opportunity to travel, and do more of the things we like to do.

"I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the board of education, my colleagues in the Henry County school system, and the entire Henry County community, for providing support, collaboration and guidance over the past 15 years, in my work with this excellent school system.

"I will miss the wonderful colleagues and community members with whom I have had the opportunity to interact," he added.

Henry's community development coordinator, Connie Rutherford, said the process of replacing the superintendent has not yet begun.