Bibb BOE members unable ‘to come together’ on candidate

The Bibb County school board’s struggle to agree on one candidate will soon send its search for a new superintendent past the two-year mark.

During its most recent search, the issue was the board’s inability to reach a consensus, board chairwoman Susan Sipe said. Such an agreement is important, she said, if the board and new superintendent are going to work together effectively.

“My personal opinion is that the most successful superintendent search is where all eight members can agree,” she said. “We were not able to come together, all eight of us, on a candidate.”

Perhaps pointing to that division, board member Tom Hudson said Wednesday that he thought his comments and opinions on the search were not represented after Tuesday’s board meeting. As a result, he said he had “no intentions” of joining a follow-up discussion on the impasse.

As for the division itself, Sipe declined to comment more pointedly on the source of the board’s disagreement.

“I really can’t get into the specifics,” she said. “That was all handled in executive session.”

Asked about frustrations from parents or other community members over the length of the search, board member Wanda West said quality was the goal. Rather than racing to meet a deadline, the board’s aim is to “do whatever it takes” to get the right person for the post, West said.

“We just wanted to make sure when we got in the process ... we tried to find the very best individual possible,” she said.

On Tuesday, the school board voted unanimously to end its most recent search and start over with a new search model.

“The new model provides for the board to move faster, is probably what I want to say,” West said.

As part of that model, also selected Tuesday, West and fellow board member Lester Miller will head up an effort to pick an outside consultant to help identify candidates. The last search used the Georgia School Board Association, but West said the school board was “not able to drive that process to a point” where there was an ideal candidate for the system.

Instead, Kelley Castlin-Gacutan was chosen to be the system’s next interim superintendent, the third person to hold the post since the board bought out Romain Dallemand’s contract in February 2013. Castlin-Gacutan is the district’s deputy superintendent for operations and was recently a finalist for the superintendent’s job in Rome.

She said last month that she hadn’t applied during Bibb County’s most recent search because one of the criteria was that candidates have previous experience as a superintendent.

Sipe said that might not necessarily be an issue this time around.

“Nothing’s off the table, and so that ... may be a decision that she would have to make,” Sipe said of her possible candidacy. “There’s nothing that would preclude her” at this point.

West added that speed was not a motivating factor for much of the search process. She said the board actually stepped back just after the “changing of the guard” when Steve Smith took over as interim superintendent in June 2013.

“One thing the school board was interested in was calming things down,” she said.

The last search involved an open application model, but this time around, board members and the consultant that West and Miller help select will identify qualified candidates and present them to the board as a whole.

“I anticipate that we will have an independent consultant to present to the board in January,” West said.

At that point, the board would work with the consultant to decide what criteria the board will use for the new search, Sipe said.

The board hopes to have a new superintendent selected by June.

To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.