The Bibb County school system has a “world of potential for improvement,” the district’s likely new superintendent said Tuesday.
Curtis L. Jones Jr., named the sole finalist for the job Tuesday, shared his early thoughts about the job with The Telegraph.
In early conversations with school board members, Jones said they agree about two key areas of focus: reading proficiency and attendance.
“We’re going to have a look at some specific ideas of how we can improve those two initiatives as well as keep the other things in place moving forward,” he said.
“I believe that Bibb County has a world of potential for improvement,” he said. “I am very excited about the staff and the principals that I have researched and learned about. And I believe a lot of the initiatives that are in place just need to be continued so Bibb County can improve.”
The 20-year Army veteran has been superintendent in Griffin-Spalding County since 2009. He grew up there.
Having worked his way through the ranks, from high school JRTOC leader to superintendent, Jones said he figured he would retire in Griffin.
“But I’m not ready to retire,” he said. “This is an opportunity to come and put in place some initiatives and ideas to help move the school system forward, and I’m committed to being there for a long period of time to see that to its end.”
Jones said one of his strengths is “figuring out a strategy for improvement” and making sure everyone is aligned to that plan. A goal in Griffin was to increase student achievement, which is what he will try to do when he comes to Bibb.
“I am confident that the board and I will be able to work together to continue to improve what Steve Smith was able to start,” he said, referring to the system’s recently retired interim leader.
James Westbury, chairman of the Griffin-Spalding school board, said he learned of Jones’ intentions Tuesday morning. He said Jones’ likely departure would be a big loss for the school system.
“I am surprised and disappointed for our system, but delighted for Dr. Jones to have this opportunity,” Westbury said. “I’m very sorry to see him go.”
Westbury said Jones had a good working relationship with the school board and helped steer the school system through the fiscal turbulence that the national recession unleashed in recent years.
“He has implemented a strategic plan, increased the graduation rate and was in the middle of bringing in technology that would give us 21st century classrooms,” Westbury said. “We had a fairly serious budget crisis during the economic downturn, but we were able to make it through without implementing any staff reductions. We’ve got a full 180-day school year, and we reinstituted pay increases across the board.”
Westbury said Jones also helped Griffin-Spalding get an education sales tax initiative approved and is in the process of putting a new E-SPLOST on the ballot. He also implemented a “career pathways” program in one of the district’s high schools and is doing the same for the district’s other high school. He also equipped the district’s school buses with GPS devices.
“He’s done a lot,” Westbury said.
Because Jones is from Griffin, Westbury said he sometimes faced challenges that a superintendent from out of county might not have, but that Jones has been “able to navigate it well.”
“The BOE works as well with him as with any superintendent I can remember,” Westbury said. “He’s a very accomplished guy and a good catch for (the Bibb County) school system.”
Before school board members can vote on Jones, Georgia law requires a minimum of 14 days between announcing a finalist and voting to make it official.
Jones said his early contacts with board members have been positive.
“What I have shared is this: If it is not a unanimous support, let’s just say it’s 7-1, I need to understand why that one did not support it so that I can see if it’s something that I can overcome,” he said. “Currently, though, I had very good conversations with the Bibb board. We had a detailed conversation, and I am very comfortable with this decision to be named as a finalist for the position.”
Contact writer David Schick at 744-4382. Contact writer Phillip Ramati at 744-4334.