Sometime next month, a fast-talking New Jersey man is going to invite himself over to your house for dinner.
Brad Draeger is a senior associate with Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, the Illinois-based consulting firm the Clarke County School District hired to help find a new superintendent to replace Phil Lanoue, who’s resigning at the end of February.
“The first thing we need to do is engage with your community,” Draeger told the school board at a work session Dec. 1. He wasn’t kidding. Draeger plans to seek input from teachers, administrators, school-bus drivers, cafeteria workers, high-school students, PTAs, the NAACP, a variety of nonprofits, the Athens-Clarke County Mayor and Commission, the Athens Housing Authority, Latino groups, the arts and music communities, kids waiting in line for brunch at Mama’s Boy, the smokers outside Flicker… OK, I made those last couple up, but he’s legit going to meet with 60–70 groups, as well as host open forums all over the county and post an online survey to find out what the community wants in a superintendent. If you don’t get a chance to share your opinion, you really ought to get out of the house more.
The school board and Draeger settled on a timeline last week for selecting the new superintendent. The job will be advertised in January. Draeger will present the results of the public input Feb. 9. In mid-March, he’ll present the board with a slate of candidates that the board will narrow down to around six. After a round of interviews in March, they’ll be narrowed down to three finalists—and those names will become public. A final round of interviews—as well as tours of the community to sell the finalists on coming to Athens—is scheduled for Mar. 28–30, and the three finalists will take questions from the public at an Apr. 3 forum.
Some board members had qualms about a public forum, but in the end they agreed that seeing the finalists interact with the public is important. On the Eastside—where a sexual assault at Cedar Shoals High School revealed a host of administration-accountability and student-discipline issues—trust is “zero,” said school board member-elect John Knox. “I think it’s exceptionally important that transparency be emphasized,” he said.
Knox also bristled at the position’s salary range of $200,000–$220,000, but board vice chairwoman Sarah Ellis said those figures are based on market research. (Lanoue was hired seven years ago at $170,000 and now makes $240,000 after completing his doctorate and being named National Superintendent of the Year in 2015.)
Ellis had previously said that board members hoped to have a new superintendent in place by the end of the school year, but it could happen sooner than that. The board will make a final decision just hours after the public forum, at a breakfast meeting on Apr. 4.
Between Lanoue’s departure and the new superintendent starting work, Jack Parish—a former Henry County superintendent and recently retired UGA College of Education professor and administrator—will serve as interim superintendent.
ADDA Director: The Athens Downtown Development Authority is also looking for a new leader, and its search is on a faster track than CCSD’s.
Pamela Thompson said last month that she will resign effective Dec. 29 after three-and-a-half years as ADDA executive director to take a high-ranking job (with a substantial pay raise) with Glynn County on the coast. “I wasn’t looking for a job, but it’s an opportunity I had to take advantage of,” she said.
The ADDA board met last week to start the search for a new executive director, and they expect a lot of interest in the position—which comes with a $75,000–$90,000 salary—both locally and outside Athens. And they’re planning to look outside the box. While a bachelor’s degree is preferred and a master’s degree is ideal, Mayor Nancy Denson said she’d entertain candidates with a two-year degree. At least eight years of experience in a field like marketing, economic development, government or private-sector management is required.
“I’d like to see somebody who brings something more to the table than [looking for] the next step up in their career,” board chairman Chris Blackmon said. “I’d like to see somebody who has wider experience and loves Athens, and wants to bring that broader experience to Athens.”
Applications are due by Dec. 16, and the board—along with attorney Jim Warnes and Brian Brodrick, a former board member who led the last search—will schedule interviews with finalists in January.
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