Search starts anew as Castlin-Gacutan named Bibb interim superintendent

Acknowledging their search for a new superintendent has stalled, the Bibb County school board chose a new interim superintendent Tuesday night.

The board voted 7-0 to appoint Kelley Castlin-Gacutan as the new interim superintendent, effective Dec. 20. After some confusion about the tally, board member Ella Carter said she did not vote.

Castlin-Gacutan, the deputy superintendent of operations, will replace current interim Superintendent Steve Smith, who is retiring from the post at the end of this month after serving a year and a half.

In a separate vote, the school board voted 8-0 to end the current search for a permanent superintendent and will begin a new search.

In February 2013, Susanne Griffin-Zeibart replaced former Superintendent Romain Dallemand, whose contract was bought out by the district after a controversial two years on the job. In June 2013, Smith replaced Griffin-Ziebart. Smith was previously supposed to step down June 30, but his contract was extended after the board scrapped an earlier superintendent search process in order to change the criteria for the position.

The district engaged the Georgia School Board Association to conduct a search in June 2014. The GSBA provided a list of 44 potential candidates over the summer, but after weeks of culling the list and interviewing potential candidates, the board failed to reach a decision.

On Tuesday, board member Wanda West provided the board with four alternatives to conduct a new search: Enter into a new contract with the GSBA; engage another vendor, such as a headhunting firm, to come up with candidates; appoint a local agent to lead the search; or have the board itself conduct the search, with each board member offering candidates until one is agreed upon.

After extensive questioning, board members Thelma Dillard and Jason Downey voted in favor of the board option, but it failed 5-2. Carter was not there for that vote.

The board then voted 5-2 to approve the third option of appointing a local agent to lead the search. West and Lester Miller were appointed to head up the search committee.

It’s unclear if Castlin-Gacutan will be in the mix for the permanent job. West said anyone could be in the running, including those from the list of 44 candidates.

Castlin-Gacutan recently finished as runner up for the superintendent’s job in the Rome school district. She lost out to a former graduate of that school system.

Castlin-Gacutan, who has been with the district since 2012, said she’s only focusing on guiding the district through the remainder of the academic year.

“I’m just focused on the task at hand, to complete the school year,” she said. “It’s a very limited post right now.”

Castlin-Gacutan said she had a number of short-term goals, including making sure the district has an operations system that complies with the state Department of Education’s standards as well as beginning work on the fiscal 2016 budget.

Smith had nothing but praise for his successor.

“She’s a wonderful person,” he said. “I’ve worked very closely with her for the last 19 months. She’s outstanding. ... She’s intelligent, resourceful, organized and listens to everything.”

On the most recent search, the district has spent at least $14,000, according to a partial list of receipts The Telegraph requested of the school system through the Open Records Act.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.