Romain Dallemand ended his two-year stint as Bibb County schools superintendent Tuesday, encouraging school leaders to continue working for the benefit of the students.
Dr. Dallemand said that all students need and deserve the highest levels of commitment and passion from everyone in the district so that students have the best chance of being successful, system spokesman Donald Porter said in a statement.
Dallemand, who met with principals and other members of his administration on his final day at work, did not speak directly with media. Monday night, the school board voted 7-1 to buy out the remainder of his three-year contract for $350,000, ending a tumultuous couple of years at the helm of the 24,000-student system. He also will continue to receive his accrued pension benefits and health insurance for him and his family until July 2014 or until he finds another job.
Board member Lester Miller said a regularly scheduled board meeting Thursday evening will focus in part on what happens next.
Miller, who cast the lone dissenting vote for the buyout package, said the board must come together and set priorities.
Of paramount importance, he said, is making sure teachers are properly equipped to work with their students. The board must decide what parts of the Macon Miracle -- Dallemands plan aimed at improving student performance -- will remain in place. Among the Miracles initiatives are Mandarin Chinese instruction, extended school days and portfolio schools, which allow students to choose where they attend based on personal interests.
The board basically will review those items and make decisions on whether its the best for the children and whether we can afford that, Miller said. Most of that will be addressed through decisions made in the budget.
The school systems four deputy superintendents will oversee day-to-day operations until an interim superintendent is selected by the board, Porter said.
The four deputies are Jane Drennan, deputy superintendent of teaching and learning; Susanne Griffin-Ziebart, deputy superintendent of school improvement and redesign; Ed Judie, deputy superintendent of student affairs; and Kelley Castlin-Gacutan, deputy superintendent of operations.
At this point the deputy superintendents are running their areas of responsibility, and we anticipate more direction from the board at their meeting on Thursday, Porter said.
Tuesday, other board members either declined to comment or did not return calls from The Telegraph.
However, former school board member Gary Bechtel, now a Bibb County commissioner, said the buyout was the best course of action the board could have taken.
While Bechtel said Dallemand is getting a large severance package, the district might save more money in the long run because of lower legal costs.
I think the board was not left with any good choice, Bechtel said. Given that, making the decision sooner rather than later will save them money in the long run and begin the process of healing the district.
Former school board members Tommy Barnes and Susan Middleton, who served on the school board for most of Dallemands tenure, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Parents, teachers, community leaders weigh in
Reaction to the buyout among parents and teachers was mixed. Some said they were upset to see him go, while others said constant controversy surrounding Dallemand became too much of a distraction.
Two Central High School teachers, who asked not to be named, said the consensus among faculty and staff was that they were glad to see him go.
One Central High teacher said she found it ironic that Dallemand took the buyout, noting that he told the media earlier this month that he planned to stay through the end of his contract.
Its always been an integrity issue with me, she said. Now, hes just giving (his critics) more fuel with his departure.
She said she hopes the school board will look for a superintendent with ties to the community.
We need someone who knows the community and the kids, and who is humble, she said. It needs to be one of us.
Another teacher at the school said education is only successful if the community, parents, students and school system work together. But the teacher said school system employees got the blame if things went bad, while parents and the community got the credit if things were going well.
As a teacher, you felt left out (when good things happened). If something did succeed, (the attitude was) it was because of the community.
Some parents and grandparents of students said Tuesday they supported Dallemand.
I really didnt know what to think (when he took the buyout), said Elaine Braswell, a grandmother of a Central High sophomore. I thought he was doing some good. ... Hopefully, someone will step in and keep going with what he started.
Shikiethia Thomas, who has a child at Central and two more at Rosa Taylor Elementary, said she was disappointed with the buyout decision.
We were heading in a good direction, she said. But thats part of government. I liked the Mandarin for my 5- and 7-year-old. I loved coming home and hear them singing in Mandarin. ... I dont think the Macon Miracle is going away. I think it will be tweaked and added to.
Other parents said they think the system is better off without Dallemand.
I was glad, just because there was so much stirred up, said Jami Heath, a mother of three Alexander II Magnet School students. I really didnt see much that was done.
Heath said shes not too concerned with who the next superintendent is.
I dont feel like weve gotten a good leader in a long time, she said. I hope its someone who doesnt have so much controversy.
Local community leaders had mixed reactions to Dallemands departure.
State Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon, said Dallemands buyout is a positive step toward restoring public confidence in the school system, but he hopes for more action.
We expect fiscal responsibility as well as a proper focus on student success, he said by e-mail. The children and their parents deserve no less.
Staton said last week he would propose a bill that would give Bibb County commissioners oversight over the school systems taxing authority and budget. Bibb County voters gave the school board full taxing authority in 2004.
Staton described the bill as a shot across the bow for school district officials to address the superintendents leadership, fiscal responsibility, a direction and commitment to student achievement, and community confidence in the system.
Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen said Tuesday he wasnt happy about the school boards decision, because there is pending litigation against Dallemand and the school district.
I think buying him out, even though they have lawsuits pending, I think thats just wrong, Allen said.
Allen was the only one of five commissioners who opposed a resolution signed Friday against Statons proposed bill. Allen said he likes the idea of having one taxing authority after city and county governments combine in a consolidated government, but the issue ultimately needs to go to the voters.
Allen recently called for a federal investigation into the school systems finances, and Allen said he did so because of problems across the board.
Dallemands just one hand, he said.
Other community leaders did not want to comment on the matter or could not be reached.
Kirby Godsey, Mercers chancellor and former president, did not want to comment on Dallemands departure, but he said a robust public school system is vital.
Im committed to strengthening public education in our community. Im confident the school board wants to achieve that goal as well, he said. I wish Dr. Dallemand well in his future endeavors.
Macon City Councilman Tom Ellington said the school board will have to come together for the students.
I know there has been a lot of division over the last few months, and I hope this is a chance for a fresh start, he said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.