It was only a matter of time after he was named National Superintendent of the Year in 2015, but Phil Lanoue is leaving the Clarke County School District in May to take over the Fulton County system, the fourth-largest in the state.
Lanoue announced his departure Friday, Feb. 5, the day after the Fulton County school board named him the sole finalist to replace Robert Avossa, who left for Palm Beach County, FL in June.
Lanoue, who was a principal in Vermont and Massachusetts and an assistant superintendent in Cobb County before taking the Clarke County job in 2009, called it the most rewarding time of his career.
“I want to thank the incredibly passionate and dedicated faculty and staff, who have tirelessly worked to offer our students the best possible education,” he said in an email to parents. “I want to acknowledge the central office team and building leaders for their incredibly focused dedication to our mission and vision. I also appreciate the support and latitude from the board to enable our district to be creative and innovative. And finally, the daily smiles from our students have kept me going all these years and have served as a constant reminder of why we do what we do.”
Lanoue’s departure comes at a critical time for the district—his reforms just now seem to be taking root, with a dramatic rise last year in the percentage of students who graduated. His proposal to create a charter district and empower decision-making at the school level still hasn’t been approved by the state. And he’s been a vocal opponent of Gov. Deal’s plan to take over “failing” schools and state officials’ obsession with standardized testing, which many critics say is handcuffing teachers and taking away valuable instruction time.
Whoever is the next superintendent will have to follow through on this issues while facing the challenges of a student body that is largely from low-income families, with high numbers of kids with special needs or who speak English a second language, who need extra help to succeed academically. And he or she will have to face those challenges without hope of additional funding coming from the national, state or local level—CCSD’s millage rate is maxed out.
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