School board to soon close schools, begin hiring process

mstucka@macon.comNovember 23, 2013 

Bibb County school board members will soon hear about administrators’ plans to close schools -- and then make a decision. Around the same time, they’ll be working to find the school system new leadership.

Under a schedule established Thursday, board members will be presented with interim Superintendent Steve Smith’s proposal to close and merge schools during a Dec. 9 board meeting. Board members will discuss the proposals in more depth Dec. 12, then could make decisions during the regular Dec. 19 board meeting.

Smith said the board should approve a draft of the five-year facilities plan no later than the Jan. 16 board meeting.

Board members said they wanted to leave enough time to talk to school communities. School consolidations that were expected last fall were canceled because they came too late.

In a blog post, Smith said the system plans to “build up to four new elementary schools that will either replace existing schools or that will combine two schools into one. The enrollment at most of our elementary schools hovers around 400 to 500 students, and new schools will be built to accommodate 750 students. Therefore, eventually there were fewer but larger schools, thus increasing the operational efficiency of each school.”

No board members voiced opposition to the potential closures. The system’s enrollment has been steadily declining, and new charter schools are expected to siphon hundreds of students out of the system. The system is also struggling with structural financial problems.

Other closures were proposed under former Superintendent Romain Dallemand, but they were not implemented.

School board members also targeted December as the month to move on a superintendent search. Smith is scheduled to finish working at the end of the school year, and the board last had a regular superintendent in February, when it bought out Dallemand’s contract.

The board is working to finalize the job description, and under a timeline discussed Thursday, it would begin advertising in January. Interviews could begin in March.

The Georgia School Boards Association compiled a draft list of qualifications based on feedback from the board members. The ideal candidate should have the highest possible degree in the field, such as a doctorate. He or she should also have been successful as a superintendent, principal and classroom teacher, with experience anywhere in the United States.

The board wants a candidate who can be visible and active in schools, manage finances, lead administrators and curriculum, build a team to improve schools, and work with the school board and community, among others. The qualifications haven’t been finalized by the school board yet.

Board members were also told about efforts to give the system clean accreditation by this summer. Some of those issues may be discussed in a “listening session” with focus groups scheduled for 6 p.m. Jan. 7 at Central High School. The event is designed to discuss progress made since the last listening sessions in June, Smith said in his blog post.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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