Bibb superintendent search going well, school chief says

jmink@macon.comMarch 19, 2014 

The search for a new superintendent of Bibb County schools is on track as candidates send in applications, interim Superintendent Steve Smith said Wednesday during a speech at the League of Women Voters of Macon meeting.

There are some quality candidates, and one in particular has caught Smith’s attention and has his endorsement, he said.

“He would be my first choice, and I think he would be a perfect fit for Bibb County,” Smith said, though he wouldn’t reveal the candidate’s name. “This individual is the cream of the crop.”

At the league meeting, a member questioned why the school board hired former Superintendent Romain Dallemand when his controversial history was widely known, she said. This time around, the board will be very particular and will thoroughly research candidates “to make sure there are no skeletons in the closet,” Smith said.

“The board has learned a lesson,” he said. “They cannot afford to make a mistake. This time, they’ve got to get it right.”

The controversy surrounding Dallemand’s tenure has been in the spotlight due to a recent audit, which criticizes Dallemand for purchase orders made without required board approval. Now, the school district is cooperating with the state Attorney General’s office in gathering any evidence for a potential criminal investigation into Dallemand’s actions.

“It’s unfortunate that it happened. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did happen.” Smith said. “But we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to focus on the children.”

Another league member asked about the future of the school system’s Welcome Center. The center is not closing, but it will be restructured, Smith said. Several parents prefer to register their children at their individual schools, where they can meet principals, teachers and staff members.

“That’s what we’re moving back toward,” Smith said.

Smith discussed challenges the school system faces but also improvements that have been made and goals the system is striving to meet. Since temporarily taking the helm, Smith has worked to help improve the school district where his career has come full circle.

“It’s been a very rewarding experience,” he said. “It’s been wonderful to come back. Just think, how many opportunities do you get to come back to your home and actually serve in a position like this?”

Smith attended Bibb County schools and went on to become a teacher and then principal of Central High School. Betty Phillips, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, taught alongside Smith at Central High.

“If only we could clone him,” Phillips said. “I have a great deal of respect for his common-sense approach to educational problems.”

Phillips has witnessed her share of changes in public education over the years, but “we’re still doing a pretty good job,” she said. “We must concentrate on public education. The viability of the community depends on public education.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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