NCSS moves for­ward in search for su­per­in­ten­dent

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­

New­ton County School Board mem­bers voted Tues­day to use the Ge­or­gia School Board As­so­ci­a­tion in their search for a new su­per­in­ten­dent, with all mem­bers vot­ing in fa­vor ex­cept District 1 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeff Meadors.

Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment by cur­rent Su­per­in­ten­dent Gary Mathews in late Novem­ber that he planned to re­tire June 30, the board had to choose be­tween three op­tions in search­ing for the new head of the New­ton County School Sys­tem. They could con­duct the search them­selves, use Grif­fin RESA (an in­ter­me­di­ate agency that serves a des­ig­nated re­gion of school dis­tricts, of which New­ton County is a part), or use the Ge­or­gia School Board As­so­ci­a­tion to con­duct the search. The GSBA is who the school board used in their last search.

The GSBA will cost roughly $8,000, as well as mileage in­curred dur­ing the search. Ac­cord­ing to GSBA Board spe­cial­ist Jim Puck­ett, it typ­i­cally would take just three trips from their of­fices to New­ton County dur­ing the search. A search by Grif­fin RESA would be free; how­ever, they have never con­ducted a su­per­in­ten­dent search, while GSBA has con­ducted hun­dreds.

Puck­ett urged board mem­bers to look at the brochure that was cre­ated for the last su­per­in­ten­dent search and add or take away as needed, he also said they would be sent an elec­tronic sur­vey that would al­low GSBA to cre­ate a brochure so po­ten­tial can­di­dates know what the NCSS wants in their new su­per­in­ten­dent.

Ac­cord­ing to a sam­ple time­line from GSBA, it takes roughly three weeks from con­tract to the com­ple­tion of the brochure, two weeks for print­ing, be­tween six and eight weeks be­tween the mail­ing of the brochure and the ap­pli­ca­tion dead­line, two to three weeks for a re­view of ap­pli­ca­tions and ref­er­ence checks, be­fore GSBA meets with the board

to pro­vide them with their top picks. The board will then sched­ule in­ter­views with the hope that a new su­per­in­ten­dent can be cho­sen by midApril.

The board can de­cide if they want to re­im­burse out-of-town can­di­dates for travel and lodg­ing ex­penses and if they want to do their own credit and back­ground checks, or if they would like GSBA to do them at the cost of roughly $50 per can­di­date.

De­spite the cost, some board mem­bers say that GBSA’s ex­pe­ri­ence out­weighs the cost of them con­duct­ing the la­bor and time-in­ten­sive search.

“I voted in fa­vor of GSBA be­cause of their record,” said District 5 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Abi­gail Cog­gin. “Ms. [District 3 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Shak­ila] Hen­der­son-Baker made very valid points in her state­ment for GSBA over Grif­fin RESA. This is not to say Grif­fin RESA or any other or­ga­ni­za­tion is not ca­pa­ble in car­ry­ing out a su­per­in­ten­dent search in a pos­i­tive fash­ion.”

Hen­der­son-Baker said dur­ing the Tues­day meet­ing that she was not in fa­vor of the NCSS be­ing used as a guinea pig by Grif­fin RESA since they have never con­ducted a search such as this be­fore.

“Our school sys­tem is in a unique sit­u­a­tion,” said Cog­gin. “We are on the cusp of gain­ing ground in so many ar­eas where a per­son with a proven track record needs to be the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of our schools. We also need to make this tran­si­tion as smooth as pos­si­ble. I feel GSBA will be able to pro­vide us with the most qual­i­fied can­di­dates avail­able and help make the tran­si­tion as seam­less as pos­si­ble be­cause of their proven ser­vices.”

GSBA will not be choos­ing the new su­per­in­ten­dent. They will merely find the ap­pli­cants who have ev­ery­thing the NCSS is look­ing for and weed out the un­qual­i­fied be­fore pre­sent­ing their re­sults to the board. The pub­lic will also be asked for their in­put on the mat­ter in the form of a sur­vey that will be placed on the school sys­tem web­site at a fu­ture time. The goal is to find out what ci­ti­zens be­lieve are the most im­por­tant qual­i­ties and qual­i­fi­ca­tions for a su­per­in­ten­dent.

District 4 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Al­mond Turner also be­lieved that con­tract­ing with the GSBA was the cor­rect way to search for a new su­per­in­ten­dent.

“There were more than 240 searches that GSBA has al­ready con­ducted over the years, and we have used them in the past,” he said. “That is not to say that Grif­fin RESA couldn’t do it, but as of yet, they haven’t con­ducted one [su­per­in­ten­dent search]. I chose GSBA be­cause of their record and be­cause it’s a very im­por­tant po­si­tion we have to fill in or­der to keep our school sys­tem go­ing in the pos­i­tive di­rec­tion it needs to con­tinue to move in. I felt that GSBA was the right one, and the money they are charg­ing is not that much con­sid­er­ing all they do for us in the search.”

District 1 rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jeff Meadors, the one op­pos­ing vote, dis­agreed. Af­ter a con­ver­sa­tion with the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Grif­fin RESA Stephanie Gordy, Meadors said that he be­lieved she was “top notch” and, as a grad­u­ate of New­ton High School, had an in­ter­est in the county.

“Dr. Gordy has a real in­ter­est in New­ton County and would work well with us to find the right match for our next su­per­in­ten­dent — at no cost to us, no cost to tax­pay­ers, in a year we are ask­ing for SPLOST to pass. If Grif­fin RESA is good enough for our board train­ing, then they are cer­tainly good enough to as­sist us, free of charge, in a su­per­in­ten­dent search,” said Meadors. “It’s not rocket sci­ence. Our PR di­rec­tor is on salary and can as­sist with mar­ket­ing and pub­lic re­la­tions. Our HR de­part­ment rou­tinely han­dles CBCs (crim­i­nal back­ground checks). Cer­tainly there is enough in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tively for us to use our cur­rent re­sources, the free re­sources of Grif­fin RESA and pull off a search. We just paid out to GSBA in 2009 to do a search. Th­ese searches start at $8,000. They don’t end there. That said, I lost this vote to pre­serve tax­payer dol­lars, so I will get on board with the mea­sure that passed and be a team player.”

Although board mem­ber Shak­ila Hen­der­son-Baker and board chair­man Ed­die John­son both voted in fa­vor of us­ing GSBA, they did not com­ment on their rea­sons for do­ing so.

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