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March 10, 2014

BOE community forum has lower than expected turnout

MILLEDGEVILLE — Local parent Shanoca French hopes the next school superintendent will be a committed and transparent in how school system business is conducted. French, along with four others, shared her concerns and opinions with the Baldwin County Board of Education during a community forum Thursday night, which featured far less than stellar participation.

“I want [the next superintendent] to use resources in the community more,” she said to the school board and the few in attendance. “I would like to see someone who is very fair, has skills to be able to build an education in our community, someone who can establish a more disciplined plan for students, and someone who is open to communication with parents, stakeholders and students and values their opinions. We need someone to hold our kindergarten through second grade teachers more accountable.”

Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) Board Consultant Bill Sampson mediated the forum while his wife Ginger helped take notes of the individual characteristics discussed.

“I want the [new superintendent] to be a creative thinker to solve problems. Someone who has grant writing skills ... is a great manager of facilities, is parent-friendly and enthusiastic,” expressed another local parent. “We need someone to get parents to believe in the public school system again. This person needs to be a cheerleader for the school system.”

Oak Hill Middle School teacher Chuck Claxton hopes the school board can hire an individual who has a vision of moving the school system and its students forward.

“Every superintendent really isn’t sitting very well in their communities right now. Over the last few years as budgets have declined, superintendents have had to take the brunt of it. From who I talk to across the state, school systems feel crushed everywhere,” he said. “Back in the old days, the superintendent was really anchored in the community. The life of a superintendent in any community isn’t long anymore. I’m hoping as we’re rebuilding, we bring somebody that we can invest in and they can invest in us and we keep them for a long time.”

County Commissioner Henry Craig, District 4, said the school board’s final decision will be “the biggest decision of the decade.”

“Your decision will decide what will happen to the school system and what happens to our children. As a fellow leader, what happens to our children is the most important thing; success of our children will keep them here ... and that will build our economy, build communities and families,” Craig said. “Your next leader should be somebody ready to get involved in the community; somebody who realizes that they are one of the most important leaders in our community and they get involved with other leaders in the community.”

Blandy Hills Elementary School third grade teacher Katrina Veal would like a superintendent with prior classroom teaching experience.

“I want someone who has been a classroom teacher so they understand what I go through. I want someone who understands the Georgia curriculum and someone who’s going to value teachers’ opinions,” she said. “I need a rebel; someone who is all about the business of educating these students by all means. If we keep doing the same things, we’re going to keep getting the same results.”

The school board still encourages local officials, parents, students, school system employees and citizens to provide input on the characteristics they believe the new superintendent should possess by completing a brief online survey. The survey can be found on the school system’s website. A summary of the survey results will be given to the school board for its use as applications are reviewed and select candidates are interviewed.

“As of 2 p.m. [Thursday], over 265 people have gone online and completed the survey,” Sampson said. “The survey will remain available through March 21.”

The school superintendent position is posted on the websites of GSBA, Teach Georgia and the local school system. Qualified applicants seeking the position must have the application postmarked by March 21 to GSBA. To be considered for the position, all applicants’ file must contain a formal letter of application indicating a desire to be considered a candidate, a completed application, a resume that lists three references and an official or photocopy of official college transcripts.

“The announcement is posted on the GSBA website, and that has been sent to 1,400 people on our list of people that are interested in the search, colleges across the southeast and school boards across the country. Information about Baldwin County and its school system are being widely circulated,” Sampson said. “After the 21st, the applications will be reviewed ... and the applications will be placed in categories depending on how many of the requirements the applicant meets.”

A GSBA representative will give the school board training on the how to conduct interviews. Once candidates go through the interview process, GSBA recommends for the school board to select three finalists to be publicly announced.

“The school board will take information from [the forum], the surveys and any concerns shared with the board members individually, and it will all be considered. After information about the final three applicants is made public, a minimum of 14 days has to pass before the board can name a superintendent,” Sampson said. “This is the most important decision the board will make this year, and I think the board is taking it very seriously.”

During the November meeting, the school board accepted School Superintendent Geneva Braziel's resignation, effective June 30. Braziel served two terms as superintendent for the school district. Her current three-year contract ends Nov. 1.

“We recognize that this is a very serious moment in Baldwin County. We take this very seriously,” said school board Vice Chair Gloria Wicker of District 1. “If you have not completed the survey, please do that so we can get as much feedback as possible.”

The survey can be found on the school system’s website at www.baldwin.schooldesk.net, or at www.surveymonkey.com/s/baldwincomm. For more information about the application process, or to share your concerns, contact a school board member or visit www.gsba.com.

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