Search for Bibb schools superintendent begins

The Bibb County school board took its first step to find a new school superintendent Tuesday.

Board members voted to accept requests for proposals from national superintendent search firms.

The board asked firms to submit their profiles, a list of searches they’ve conducted in the past five years, experience working with urban school districts, their range of fees as well as a plan for working with school officials and the community to select a quality superintendent.

“I think everyone is ready to go,” said board President Gary Bechtel, who said he expects to have a new superintendent in place by spring 2011.

The board hopes to have proposals from the firms by late next month and then spend the following three or four months holding focus groups with the community and business groups to build a profile for the type of superintendent needed to work in Bibb County.

“At this point we have not set a ceiling on price because we have not seen the profile of the firms and their capabilities as well as their fees so we do not wish to limit ourselves at this point,” Bechtel said.

In a meeting last month, the school board approved redirecting $50,000 from its general fund that was earmarked for consultants to instead aid in the search.

One Bibb County school parent, Marie Harris, said the system needs to find a superintendent quickly to clean up personnel, discipline and safety issues plaguing the school system.

“We need someone to take charge,” Harris said. “The longer we go without, the longer we go without accountability or a go-to person.”

At least one superintendent search firm in Georgia says although there are a high number of superintendent vacancies across the state, Bibb should have no problem drawing plenty of applicants.

“In the searches we’ve done, all (school systems) are getting about 40 (superintendent) applicants,” said Don Rooks, a superintendent recruiter for the Georgia School Boards Association, which charges school districts $8,000 plus mileage to find top school leaders for them.

“There are still a number of people who want to be superintendents, thank goodness.”

For example, Newton County’s superintendent search drew 51 applicants — 37 from Georgia and 14 from out of state, he said.

“I would be surprised if Bibb County doesn’t attract several highly qualified candidates for that position,” Rooks said.

This school year, whether it’s because many superintendents reached retirement age or some leaders may be fed up with dealing with floundering budgets and state cuts, there is a higher number of superintendent vacancies across Georgia, Rooks said.

In the midstate, Bibb, Jones and Houston school systems are in the process of finding new leaders.

The Bibb County school board voted last month to buy out former school Superintendent Sharon Patterson’s contract 17 months early.

The board agreed to pay Patterson a lump sum of $198,000.

Patterson and two top administrators are under a state ethics investigation.

Two school board members, Bechtel and Lynn Farmer, filed a complaint with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission this past September alleging that Patterson, now-interim Superintendent Sylvia McGee and Assistant Superintendent Mack Bullard failed to report two cases of principal misconduct to the PSC.

The PSC also is investigating whether the three turned over at least two other employee misconduct cases to the state commission which issues teacher certification and requires suspected cases of educator misconduct to be reported within 90 days.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.