Bibb school board members will get superintendent search results soon

Bibb school board members will get superintendent search results soon

jmink@macon.comApril 5, 2014 

The hunt for Bibb County’s next school superintendent has taken another step, as the application window has closed and search officials review 24 applications.

The choice is a crucial one for any school district, officials say, but particularly for the Bibb County system, which has endured its share of controversy as a result of the last superintendent selection. Some school board members say the process will be different this time around.

The next step is an extensive review and ranking by the Georgia School Boards Association, which is leading the search. The association will present the results to the school board during a called meeting, which will likely be around the third week of April, said Bill Sampson, a consultant with the association. The board will then take time to review the applications and begin interviewing candidates.

“We’re working with good expediency but not rushing it, and I think that’s important,” board member Lester Miller said. “We’ll be very transparent ... so everyone knows where we’re going, and we’re definitely going to get community input.”

Other board members also promised to be transparent and seek wide-ranging feedback. The process will be different, they said, because the board is different.

“This is a different board. The makeup is different. We have new members who were not involved” in the last search, board President Susan Sipe said. “We’re all going in with our eyes wide open, and we’re going to be very mindful of the importance of this decision, and this board will work to make the best decision for the students of Bibb County.”

Board member Jason Downey said he will personally reach out to the community, particularly through social media. Additionally, the school board is working with the Georgia School Boards Association, which should make a big difference, he said. During the last search, the school board worked with a consulting firm, which “in my opinion was overpaid for the job they did,” Downey said.

Now, “We’ve hired people from home, if you will, to help us with the search, and we’ve paid them a 10th as much. And you’re going to see a lot more stakeholder involvement.”

Like Downey, board member Lynn Farmer said this search differs partly because the association is leading the effort.

“I have the utmost confidence in them. In addition, this is not the same board,” Farmer said. “I think we understand that we need to get someone who can move the system forward, partner with the business community, support our students and -- the most important link in education -- support the teachers in the classroom doing their day to day work.”

Board member Wanda West said she is excited about the process, and she acknowledged that, in the past, there was a disconnect between the school board and the superintendent. She is looking for a superintendent that understands the importance of setting goals with the school board and with the community, she said.

“It is time for us to move on and to do whatever it takes to continue building partnerships between the administration and the board,” she said. “Macon deserves a quality school system, and Macon deserves a board and an administration that will work together to give the children of this community its best.”

Board member Tom Hudson said that while he has no qualms with the last search process, it is time to move forward and concentrate on the students. It’s important to hire someone who can work with the board to help close achievement gaps, he said.

The next superintendent also should be willing to build a solid team, and specifically reach out to the business and faith communities, Hudson said.

“I will be glad when this process is over, so we can do a better job of educating our children and provide them with a global educational experience,” he said.

‘Only need one good one’

It’s an “extremely important” decision, Sampson said. The superintendent and the school board make up a school system’s governance team, and research shows that strong leadership teams are necessary for a school district to reach its potential.

“The board is really working hard to be transparent and to begin building a trusting relationship with the community, and I think this is the next step,” Sampson said. “They’re certainly doing due diligence. This is a big decision, and I think the board realizes how important this decision is. That’s why they’re not making any snap decisions.”

The next step in making that decision is the ranking process. The Georgia School Boards Association will review the applications and separate them into groups, from the top to the bottom tier. A team of three reviewers -- who will be education professionals, such as retired superintendents or professors of education -- will examine the applications and rank them based on the specific qualifications the Bibb County school board requires, Sampson said.

Team members rank the applications independently from one another. Then, they compare their scores and place the candidates in groups. The school board will then review all candidates.

“We don’t say, ‘This is the person you should hire,’” Sampson said. “But we say, ‘According to the qualifications you set ... these people meet all or most of those qualifications.’ ’’

Of the 24 applicants, 18 are from Georgia and six are from out of state.

“Any time we get over 20, we feel like that’s a decent number. I wish we had 50 to choose from, but you usually don’t get that many on any search,” Sampson said.

“You only need one good one, so I don’t think it’s a bad number. We just have to see what the quality looks like.”

Several board members said they were happy with the number of applicants, particularly the fact that a majority are from Georgia.

Downey, for example, said he supported a national search, but he was pushing for someone from the Southeast. It’s important to hire someone “who is familiar with education in the South,” he said.

The school board was very specific about the qualifications the next superintendent should have. For example, they requested someone who has been a superintendent before and has experience leading a district similar to Bibb County’s size.

Because the qualifications were so specific, 24 applications is a good number, Sipe said.

“That’s a very positive way to go into this process,” she said.

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