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School superintendent search gets citizen advice: Thick-skinned

The search to replace retiring Fayette County School Superintendent Dr. John DeCotis is on, and local folks weighed in Monday night on who should replace him.

Former Board of Education member Debbie Condon was one of several school system employees and community members who believed that the successful candidate should not be required to possess a doctorate. Condon said a superintendent should possess strong leadership skills, have tough skin and be a strong leader with courage and a vision for both academics and budget issues.

Fayette County High School teacher and Fayette Association of Educators representative Dana Camp in her comments said the new superintendent should be versed in education law and bring fresh, new innovative ideas to the school system. The new superintendent should be willing to make the organizational changes as needed and possess fiscal management experience, she said.

School system employee Sandra Watson was another who said a PhD. should not be a prerequisite, adding that the successful candidate should put students first and possess the ability to work with the school system’s many stakeholders.

Patricia Moore, whose grandchildren attend Fayette schools, said the next superintendent should be a strong leader, an excellent communicator and open to diversity, a leader who will stand behind decisions once they are made.

One student took to the microphone at the meeting. Franklin Lowe, a 10th-grader at Fayette County High School, said the new superintendent should be one who cares about every type of student and strives to have them do their personal best.

Also speaking was bus driver David Gardner. He, too, believed a superintendent should be thick-skinned and one who is sharp financially with a strong business background. Gardner said the successful candidate should be one who maintains direct contact with schools, students and employees.

Another school system employee providing input was Discipline & Attendance Coordinator C.W. Campbell. Advocating for the board to look closely at who will be the next person to lead the school system, Campbell used the example of Clayton County’s previous hire of an out-of-state superintendent. That person required a learning curve, Campbell said.

Campbell was one of a few speakers advocating that the board confine their search to Georgia or even inside the school system for candidates.

“There’s a Fayette County way of doing things and there’s another way,” Campbell said. “Here in Fayette County we do listen and we do care.”

The public input session drew comments from 12 of the approximately 110 people who turned out Monday night at Sams Auditorium in Fayetteville.

Relative to the online survey available on the school system’s website at www.fcboe.org were the 1,233 results compiled so far. Thirty-eight percent of respondents said having a doctorate was mandatory with 52 percent saying it was important.

Fifty-nine percent said it is important for the successful candidate to have prior experience as a superintendent while 31 percent said it was mandatory.

Seventy-five percent said it is mandatory that the person have prior experience as a principal and 79 percent said it is mandatory that the new superintendent have prior classroom experience.

And in terms of special expertise, 85 percent said that talent should reside in administration while 87 percent indicated in budgets.

The public hearing was moderated by representatives from the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), the organization hired last week to lead the process that will replace DeCotis.

GSBA representative Dr. Don Rooks prior to the public comments gave a brief overview of the selection process. Rooks also noted the online survey that, to date, has been completed by 1,233 people.

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