The Clarke County Board of Education took the interim tag away from Superintendent Xernona Thomas on Thursday, unanimously approving a contract for her to lead the school district through mid-2023.
Thomas was named acting, then interim superintendent in November 2019, when the board agreed to part ways with controversial superintendent Demond Means. She was then serving as Means’ chief of staff.
“I appreciate all of the support for the last year. It’s been either a short 12 months or a long 12 months. It’s gone by really fast,” Thomas said. “But I really appreciate all the support from the board and our collective efforts to strive to improve outcomes for our children. We’ve faced a lot of challenges this year… We’ve had Cognia, we’ve had corona[virus], we’ve had some change. But I’m looking forward to doing the work and providing some stability as long as is needed so we can continue to serve the children of Athens-Clarke County.”
Although she hasn’t been without her critics—particularly over reopening schools for in-person instruction—Thomas has provided stability, in contrast to Means’ rocky tenure, guiding CCSD through the pandemic, as well as the process of building up board relationships and norms following their breakdown in the Means era, resulting in an investigation by the accreditation agency Cognia.
“We’ve been in a place of transition, and we’ll continue to transition,” said board president LaKeisha Gantt. “There’s still a lot of growing and learning. We’ve made a lot of strides. Oftentimes, when ‘interim’ is there, there can be an approach where there’s an interim mindset.”
Thomas had said she would not be a candidate to take the superintendent’s job permanently and planned to retire soon.
Terms of the contract were not immediately released.
Thomas is an Athens native who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism, master’s in social work and doctorate in education from UGA. She has served as a social worker and school administrator in Clarke and Oconee counties for 28 years.
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