Georgia school superintendent’s top aide announces bid to be the boss

Mike Buck, acting chief of staff for Georgia Superintendent John Barge, is expected to announce his candidacy today to succeed his boss.

He would be at least the 12th candidate to announce a run for state school superintendent.

The pay isn’t bad; Barge earned $127,499 last year. Georgia’s superintendent has hiring and firing authority over staff members of the state Department of Education. And the superintendent has a say, along with the governor, in whether Georgia will participate in education initiatives such as the move to the national set of academic standards called the Common Core.

Barge, who is running for governor, supports Georgia’s embrace of Common Core, which is now opposed by some conservatives and tea party activists as a federal intrusion into state control of k-12 public education.

Buck, 53, also supports Common Core.

“Teachers don’t deserve to have someone coming in and ripping up the standards and starting over,” he said.

Buck, a Republican, is making his first run for elective office.

Since earning degrees from Augusta State University and the University of Georgia, Buck has served in a variety of education positions during his 31-year career.

He is a former principal of Rome High School in Floyd County. Buck also served as assistant superintendent for Rome City Schools, where he oversaw school improvement, school safety, transportation, public relations and a variety of federal grant programs.

Barge brought Buck to the state Department of Education as his chief academic officer when he took office in 2011. The department’s chief financial officer, its chief information officer and its deputy superintendents for curriculum and assessment, school improvement and school turnaround all reported to Buck as chief deputy.

Since last year, when Barge announced his candidacy for governor and his chief of staff, Joel Thornton, left the department to join the campaign, Buck has served as chief of staff.

To win, Buck would have to beat back several well-funded candidates, including Republicans Fitz Johnson (at least $265,227 raised so far) and Nancy Jester (at least $21,481 raised so far) and Democrat Alisha Thomas Morgan (at least $78,627 raised so far).

“I’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there,” Buck said.