New school chief Richard Woods to focus on early grades

State school superintendent-elect Richard Woods takes office in January, and he said one of his top priorities will be strengthening elementary school education in reading and math.

Speaking Friday to a group of school board members from across the state, Woods repeated many of the campaign promises that won him the state’s top education job in the November election. He floated the idea of advancing the cutoff date for kindergarten registration so children would be older when they enter school. Now, Georgia law says a child must be 5 years old by September 1.

The former Irwin County educator wants local control, improved morale for teachers, decreasing the emphasis on testing and tailoring graduation requirements to the interests of students. He says he’s been meeting with the governor, state lawmakers and policy groups in the weeks before his official start date to build relationships and get buy-in for his priorities.

“We’ve got to work together and that’s my commitment, to work together,” he told school board members. “Our kids do not gain if we are at divisive ends.”

Woods said he wants to bring stability to the office and plans to run for two or three terms. Outgoing Superintendent John Barge did not seek re-election, instead choosing to make a run for governor, which was unsuccessful.

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