Twiggs school system picks three superintendent finalists

The Twiggs County school board has named three superintendent finalists, and the board could choose its next leader as early as this month.

“We had 23 applicants from all over, from Atlanta to the midstate,” board Chairman David Sanders said Tuesday. “(These three) seem very good and very knowledgeable about public education.”

Interviews with six candidates were held in March, and the board narrowed the field to the final three.

They are:

n Ramon Johnson, the current principal of Bruce Elementary School in Macon.

According to his résumé, he directed the completion of the new $7 million elementary school and has implemented a school reading program, a character education program and a strategy to curb student behavior problems. The school also met Adequate Yearly Progress under his leadership, his résumé states.

Johnson also has served as assistant principal of Northeast High School and Rice Elementary. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Georgia Southern University, a master’s of science from Fort Valley State and a doctorate in education leadership from Argosy University. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and a member of Beulahland Bible Church.

n Gary Russell, a former Worth County school superintendent.

Russell was assistant superintendent and superintendent of the Worth County school system in Sylvester from 2003 to 2007.

When he was at the helm, four of the system’s five schools got off the AYP “needs improvement” list, according to his résumé, and three schools were named Title I Distinguished Schools. He implemented a learning focus program and a Saturday school created for middle school students who missed more than five unexcused days.

Russell also was a former superintendent in Bryan County. He majored in business education at the University of Pennsylvania and obtained a master’s degree from the University of Buffalo and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. He served on the United Way board in southwest Georgia.

n Margie Waters, the current educational programs executive director for West Care Corp. in Augusta.

Waters works directly with school systems to ensure that students in the program get access to state curriculum, state exams and opportunities to enroll in the state’s virtual school, as well as other opportunities. She is also a former assistant superintendent of human resources for the McDuffie County school system and a former dean of education at Paine College in Augusta.

She has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Paine College, a master’s and doctorate from the University of South Carolina and a doctorate in leadership certification from the University of Georgia.

“It will take a strong superintendent to get our school system straightened back out,” board member Ethel Stanley said. “We are looking for a good disciplinarian and someone to keep check of the finances. It seems like any of these three would be what we need.”

In 2007, the system was operating at a $1.9 million deficit, but by 2008 it had balanced its budget. In the past decade, the school system also has lost about 40 percent of its student population. In 2001, Twiggs had 1,655 students and the system now has 994, according to state enrollment data.

Interim Superintendent Carol Brown is under contract to lead the Twiggs system until July 1, but the board hopes to have its new leader in place for the start of the 2010-’11 school year. Brown, Sanders said, did not apply for the permanent superintendent’s post.

“Even though they wouldn’t start until after July, we’d like to get someone under contract,” he said. “We took a long time with this and were being careful.”

Neighboring school systems in Bibb, Houston and Jones counties also are searching for new leadership.

The Bibb County system is in the process of choosing a national search firm to handle its superintendent search. Jones County school board members are scheduled to meet Saturday to sift through internal and external candidates, and they may choose three finalists to be interim superintendent at a Tuesday board meeting, board Chairman James Stone said. Houston school officials named two finalists this year and may announce their selection next week.

Telegraph staff Writer Andrea Castillo contributed to this report.

To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.