Fulton County superintendent to step down Dec. 31

Fulton County Schools Superintendent Jeff Rose speaks with board members during a meeting in 2016, the year he was hired to take over the district's top leadership position.  EMILY JENKINS/ EJENKINS@AJC.COM

Credit: Emily Jenkins

Credit: Emily Jenkins

Fulton County Schools Superintendent Jeff Rose speaks with board members during a meeting in 2016, the year he was hired to take over the district's top leadership position. EMILY JENKINS/ EJENKINS@AJC.COM

The Fulton County school superintendent announced his resignation Thursday, amid board discussions about renewing his contract.

Jeff Rose, superintendent since June of 2016, will resign Dec. 31. He informed the public during a Thursday meeting, after the school board returned from a roughly hourlong closed-door session.

“After much prayer and conversation with my wife I have decided not to request an extension on my contract with Fulton County Schools,” he said. “I am making this decision for personal reasons. I love Fulton County Schools and our people.”

Rose will continue to receive his $295,000 salary through the end of the year. From January through June, he’ll serve as a consultant to the district, receiving a total of $248,832 in six monthly payments, according to a board-approved agreement obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through a public-records request. In addition, the district will make a $44,250 contribution to his retirement plan, and he’ll be paid for up to 20 unused vacation days.

Some parents who support Rose had become alarmed about his future with the district after the board delayed his annual review by several months to allow more time to gather information.

They think board members were out to oust the superintendent and said Rose’s departure brings instability.

It “puts our kids in even more disarray. Our district needs continuity,” said Fran Warren, a member of a South Fulton parent group who asked board members to extend the superintendent’s contract. “They’ve been so secretive and so non-communicative. This is what they’ve planned.”

Rose’s initial contract would have ended May 31, 2019, and requires notification at least one year before the contract expires if the board doesn’t intend to renew the contract. In June, the school board extended the contract until Oct. 31, 2019.

Asked after Thursday’s meeting if the board was poised to not renew Rose’s contract, school board president Linda Bryant said: “No, he chose to step down.”

She said: “He stepped down so it was not an issue.”

Rose declined to comment to a reporter beyond his public remarks but reiterated his departure was “a personal decision, 100 percent.”

During the meeting, he listed numerous accomplishments during his 2½-year tenure, including reducing the number of schools the state considers failing and improving the district’s scores on the state report card.

“I will leave my leadership post with my head held high,” he said.

Last year, the district unveiled a strategic plan identifying key priorities for the next five years. Kay Draper Hutchinson, who has children at Milton High School, wanted Rose to be in charge long enough to carry it out.

“He is a man of integrity and … seems to be thoughtful and wise,” she said. “You’re not going to have a magic elixir that is suddenly going to fix the achievement issues that exist in some schools.”

Since June of 2005, Fulton has had four superintendents and one interim, who held the post in between Rose and Robert Avossa, who left in 2015 for a Florida school district.

Researchers vary in their estimates of how long superintendents last.

In May, the Broad Center published a report that found the average superintendent of large districts stays about 6.16 years in the position before departing. The analysis looked at superintendents who had completed their tenures at the country’s biggest 100 districts, including Fulton, during a 15-year period starting in 2003.

“When Dr. Rose came I felt like it was a breath of fresh air because he seemed to be really steadying a ship that had been in a storm,” Hutchinson said.

Board members thanked Rose for his leadership.

“It’s an honor to have your signature on my daughter’s high school diploma,” said board member Katha Stuart.

The district has not announced a transition plan or search process to find a new superintendent. Rose agreed to provide the board and next superintendent with transition help as a consultant, as requested.