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Incoming Superintendent Robbie Hooker Talks About His Vision for CCSD

Incoming CCSD superintendent Robbie Hooker.

About 200 people turned out on Sunday to hear incoming Clarke County School Superintendent Robbie Hooker discuss his background and vision for the school district.

Hooker, the sole finalist for the position, will be called upon to lead one of the most diverse school districts in the state, where 80% of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, and which has a persistent gap in test scores between white and Black students.

Hooker—a former Clarke County teacher and principal who’s currently superintendent of the Social Circle school system—said he’s committed to equity and improving the performance of all students. And he called on the community, in particular businesses and faith-based organizations, to help.

“You must understand, I can’t do this work alone,” Hooker said during a 30-minute speech at CCSD’s Prince Avenue headquarters that received a standing ovation. “It involves the entire community.”

Assuming the school board confirms his hiring at its Sept. 1 meeting, Hooker will take over leadership from retiring Superintendent Xernona Thomas on Oct. 10. He said he’ll spend his first 100 days meeting with school board members and others, poring over test scores and deciding how to send resources where they’re needed most.

“We want to change the trajectory of all students—not some students, but all students,” he said.

To do that, Hooker said CCSD will have to broaden its mission to deal with issues like trauma, homelessness, gentrification, poverty and gangs that many students are facing and that get in the way of academics. That will involve some tough conversations and engaging families that haven’t had a seat at the table, he said. It could also mean improving “wraparound services” and hiring more behavioral specialists.

He recalled his mentors at church growing up and contrasted them with the guidance counselor at his school, who he said ignored him because he didn’t come from a middle-class family. It was his older sister who steered him toward college, he said.

“I don’t believe every student is meant to go to college,” he said, “but I do believe every student can be a productive citizen in the community.”

Hooker also pledged to support teachers and make sure they feel heard so that they don’t leave CCSD. The district historically has a high turnover rate, with 100 or more teachers typically leaving in any given year.

Hooker said he expects administrators to work as a team and to spend two or three days a week in school buildings helping teachers. He doesn’t want them to burn out, either, and said he will institute “Wellness Wednesdays” where administrators can leave early to work out or spend time with their families.

The former CCSD teacher of the year at Coile Middle School left his post as principal of Clarke Central High School in 2016 to take a job in Henry County’s central office, then became superintendent in Social Circle in 2019. Board President LaKeisha Gantt said coming back to Clarke County was like a homecoming for Hooker. He will be challenged with uniting a school board and a city that have been beset by infighting in recent years.

“I believe if we’re bound together, if we work together, this will be not only the best district in Northeast Georgia, but in the state of Georgia,” he said.

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