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APS and DCSS need new Superintendent APS school board race lead to some debate

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This is a very busy time of the year for two State of Georgia school systems. The Atlanta Public Schools and the Dougherty County School System are in search for superintendents to replace the retiring and interim superintendents respectfully. In addition, school board races are looming for the APS, where incumbents are fighting to maintain their seats within the district. When high profile, very important officials are running for office, special considerations need to be taken.

Hiring a superintendent for a school system can be a daunting task; since the position is a very high profile, very important position for a school system. Due to turnovers and the recent scope of the economy, school systems have frequently have had to hire new leaders. According to the American Association of School Administrators, the average tenure for superintendents is three and half years.

Promoting an existing employee is not always the best option either because assistant and deputy superintendents may not have sufficient experience needed to fulfill the position. Advice school boards in New Jersey, Illinois, and Iowa suggest, likely not limited to these states, when looking or searching for a superintendent, is to use executive search firms such as Proact search or School ExecConnect. The Atlanta Public Schools is using a search firm to look for their new superintendent. The interim superintendent for the Dougherty County School System has mentioned interest in fulfilling the position full-time and permanently, if welcomed. Also, this school system is using the help of their state education system for their superintendent search. Interim superintendents hired to fill the job until a permanent person can fill the position has been a popular movement lately.

Typical searches for large firms that conduct superintendent searches for large school districts, 10,000 or more, usually or may cost between 20-30,000. Suggestions for doing superintendent searches include starting the search early maybe in the spring or summer, finding the best fit between school boards and search firms, give the school system plenty of time to look, specify the district needs, be clear about salary offer, consider looking within and outside K-12 for best candidates, search nationally, narrow down out of a potentially large pool of candidates, and ask your state education association for help with the search. Money can be saved using the state department of education to help with search. Also, considering a high-quality group of in house candidates for the position could save funds. Options should be kept open but weighed consequently. In addition school systems and districts will need to plan for travel and lodging expenses for consultants and candidates, hold meetings publicly and/ or conduct online surveys for community feedback and weighed-in local insight.

Interested persons seeking to be elected for the Atlanta Public Schools school board are saying various things, making various assertions about what they will offer or bring to the table if elected, and how much better they are than incumbents. Incumbents are being scrutinized based on personalities and history of decision makings; however, they are coming back on running mates on how much better they are for the job. Upcoming APS school board elections are looking to bring in an additional 5 new members to the school board. However, there is a lot of clean up that is necessary for members to tackle, thus competent members need to be ready and in place to handle the many issues plaguing Atlanta Public Schools. The school board and system has suffered recent setbacks in appearance, specifically citing the recent CRCT cheating scandal that rocked the city a few years back. There is also a need to increase Atlanta’s 51 percent graduation rate and improve academics throughout and across the district.

An effective and operable school board, which normally includes the superintendent can help bring different parties together to meet the school system’s need and set up meetings to talk about getting those needs done. What the system lacks, the school board can assist in finding partners/parties or different constituents to fulfill those needs. Finding a balance between system needs and the amount of support the system can offer or already has in place is the job of the school board. In addition, an effective school board may have to deal with economic crises that may cause school boards to take on decisions and/or decision makings that would call for diligence, hard fought after critique, and thought before a decision is made. Following the law during these stressful economic times will be important for any school board member of any school board they’re serving on. This is ever more important now, due to the recent Great Recession America dealt with from 2007-2009. The Great Recession has been responsible for a decline in the property tax revenue used to fund schools causing schools to experience cuts in their budgets. The American and Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has allocated 100 billion to states to help fund education since the recession.

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