An overflow crowd attended the first Buford Board of Education meeting after an audio recording surfaced of a person using racial slurs to refer to black temporary construction workers and threatening them. The speaker on the tape was said to be Superintendent Geye Hamby, who soon resigned. CURTIS COMPTON/CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Buford City Schools nearer to selecting superintendent

Buford City Schools is heading into the home stretch in its search for a superintendent.

The committee appointed in October to wade through applicants has delivered a list of seven candidates — three favorites, two second-tier and two more in case none of those work out, according to Beauty Baldwin, a former Buford City Schools superintendent who chairs the committee.

“We had a good mix of people and even when we didn’t agree we all respected each other’s opinions,” she said. “And the decision on the top three was unanimous.”

A total of 92 applications were submitted with 61 from Georgians and 31 from 15 other states — some as far away as Maine and Washington state, said Baldwin.

Although the school board offered to reimburse members for mileage, the effort was completely voluntary. The nine-member committee met for 8-hour stretches on four Mondays in November and December. And although the job wasn’t easy, Baldwin said it was quite fulfilling.

“It was exhausting work, but I’d do it again,” she said. “I love Buford schools and I want nothing but the best for them.”

She added that the candidate pool was diverse, but wouldn’t elaborate on their gender, race or ethnicity. The board said it doesn’t compile those statistics and that information isn’t sought on the application.

The Buford Board of Education decided against hiring a firm to replace former Superintendent Geye Hamby, who resigned after a recording surfaced of someone said to be him using racial epithets to describe construction workers whom he also threatened to kill. Public outcry called for community involvement in the search process.

Two-thirds of the committee are current or former school district employees.

Using residents to search for a superintendent isn’t uncommon, and it will save the school district a tidy sum.

According to LinkedIn, many search firms charge 15 to 30 percent of the job-holder’s first-year salary. Given that Hamby was making $308,000, an outside agency may have charged taxpayers $46,200 on the low end.

Other metro school districts have used other methods such as finder’s fees for their attorney help in the selection. Fulton County spent $12,000 in the search for its last superintendent who resigned in December.

“The Board of Education is now reviewing the applications of these five candidates and anticipates scheduling interviews within the next few weeks,” said Interim Superintendent Joy Davis. “Though a specific timeline has not been established, our goal remains to have a new superintendent in place before the end of the school year.”

Georgia law allows the school district to withhold naming finalists until its down to three. It also has an additional 14 days before voting on its final choice before any names have to be made public.

Besides rebuilding public trust in the school district after the incident with Hamby, the new superintendent will oversee a new, state-of-the-art high school expected to open next school year. It will consist of a 214,373-square-foot classroom building, a 150,815-square-foot athletic building and a 53,234-square-foot performing arts building.

The average tenure of a school superintendent in large school districts is just three years, but Hamby had been with Buford City Schools for 12 years. And the one of the longest-serving superintendents, J. Alvin Wilbanks, is in his 23rd year with Gwinnett County Schools.

“I have a good feeling about our selections,” said Baldwin. “I’m sure any one of them will serve Buford well.”

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