With the elections over, two Southside school systems can now begin focusing on finding new superintendents.
Clayton and Fayette counties recently lost their school chiefs within a month of each other.
Both of the outgoing superintendents met contentious ends to their tenures, and both were recently passed over for other jobs. Fayette Superintendent Jeff Bearden lost out on a similar job in Floyd County, and Clayton Superintendent Edmond Heatley made an unsuccessful bid to become the school chief of the Berkeley Unified District in California.
Heatley resigned Sept. 30, and Bearden will leave at the end of this year with a full year’s pay.
Both boards have enlisted outside help in their search. Clayton is using Rock Clay, which helped it find Heatley. Fayette has asked the Georgia School Board Association for help in finding its superintendent. The heads of both school boards hope to have a new superintendent in place by July.
“In the next few weeks, we’ll be able to announce an interim superintendent,” Fayette school board Chairman Leonard Presberg said.
While Clayton already has an interim superintendent, the school system still must clear a Dec. 4 runoff before its nine-member board can fully devote its attention to its search. The board also has other issues crowding its agenda, the biggest, perhaps, being the threat of renewed scrutiny from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accrediting agency that pulled Clayton’s accreditation in 2008. SACS recently sent a letter warning about internal strife on the board.
“The SACS letter and the controversy around it slowed us down,” Clayton school board Chairwoman Pam Adamson said. But now Adamson says she feels confident that the board can proceed, once the runoff results are in, with its search. The board plans to host public forums and will launch an online survey to get public input into the type of superintendent needed. But the timetable hasn’t been set yet.
“Realistically, it’ll probably be around the first of the year,” Adamson said, “but the board hasn’t decided the time yet.”
Fayette has its own set of issues. After reaching a settlement with the NAACP earlier this year over voting practices that allegedly have kept blacks from serving on the school board, the judge in the case reversed his decision and rejected the settlement, throwing the case in limbo, Presberg said. So, too, is any prospect of selling Rivers Elementary School. Talk of school closings and sales to balance the school budget drew ire from the community.
“We are in negotiations for that (sale), but I don’t know how that will turn out,” Presberg said. “That property is still financed with a tax-exempt school bond. So there’s significant restrictions on what we’re able to do with that property.”
For now, finding a superintendent is high on both school systems’ to-do lists.
“That’s the No. 1 task facing us right now,” Presberg said.