FORT VALLEY -- Peach County residents grilled the school board’s three superintendent finalists on the four-day school week, student achievement, teachers and the district’s budget, among other topics, Tuesday night at a public forum at Peach County High School.
About 100 people attended the forum in the school’s auditorium for a chance to ask questions of Dennis Carpenter, Newton County’s deputy superintendent for operations; Joe Ann Denning, Peach County’s director of student services; and Christie Johnson, Carroll County’s assistant superintendent for administration and student services.
The candidates agreed on some points, such as the four-day week. Carpenter, Denning and Johnson all said they would like to explore the possibility of returning to a conventional five-day week in the future. They also said the budget would be a challenge for the school system, and they would encourage communication among employees and the community.
Carpenter touted his experience in a variety of school districts and emphasized student achievement and transparency, among other points.
He has worked in Newton County since 2008. Carpenter also has worked in administrative roles in Appling, Bulloch and Screven counties, as well as having been a fourth-grade teacher in Burke County.
“I’m able to look at the school district with multiple lenses,” he said. “It’s important for looking at school improvement.”
Carpenter has a doctorate and education specialist degree in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Georgia Southern University. He also holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Augusta State University.
Meanwhile, Denning emphasized her 24-year experience in Peach County schools. While serving as the director of student services since 1991, she also has worked as an assistant principal and has overseen federal funds.
Denning holds an education specialist degree in administration and supervision from Troy State University, a master’s in elementary education from the University of South Alabama and a bachelor’s in elementary education from Mississippi Valley State University.
“I’m bringing you my career, and I put it in front of you,” Denning said. “I ask you what I asked 24 years ago -- trust me with your children. I’ll deliver what I can or go down trying.”
Finally, Johnson said she is a collaborative person who thrives on working with others and would employ an open-door policy.
Her current role is the latest she’s held in 27 years working in the Carroll County district, starting as a middle-grades teacher.
Johnson holds a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of West Georgia, as well as an education specialist degree and master’s in middle-grades education from the school. She also has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.
In addressing the audience, she fielded questions about her potential salary in relation to leaders in nearby school districts, as well as other budget woes, while addressing student achievement in the district as well.
“I have the heart of a teacher,” she said. “I have an interest in working with the system in achieving at all levels. We’re at the cusp of breaking through state recognition, national recognition and we shoot for international recognition.”
Under state law, the earliest the Peach County school board can make a selection for a new superintendent is July 12.
Some who attended the forum, such as Peach County High School teacher Patricia Partridge, were interested in finding out how candidates would address budget shortfalls. Partridge said she would like the next superintendent to show concern for the school district.
“We need someone who is vested in the community,” Partridge said.
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.