COLUMN: BOE getting closer to superintendent decision

Published 4:17 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Troup County School Board held a special called meeting on Monday night to announce the three finalists for its superintendent position.

Brian T. Shumate, Larry E. DiChiara and Margaret “Peggy” Aune were named the finalists, three names that likely aren’t very familiar to the people of Troup County. Shumate is the current superintendent of the Medford School District in Oregon, DiChiara is the current president of SOY Education Associates, Inc. a consulting firm in Auburn, Alabama, and Aune is the associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction of the Collier County Public School System in Naples, Florida.

The school board promised a nationwide search, one that scoured every corner of the country for the best candidates. Based on the results, that’s what we have, with finalists from Alabama, Florida and Oregon.

The information provided at Monday’s meeting listed each finalist’s previous employment. Based on this information, none of the three have ever taught or been an administrator in Georgia. All that means is a completely new face will be leading our students, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

This has been a long, exhaustive process for the school board. Since accepting the resignation of Dr. Cole Pugh in August, the board has worked with the search firm McPherson and Jacobson to narrow the search from 52 to three.

That process has included a long meeting to pick the character traits the board wanted to see in the school system’s next leader, community meetings to get the opinion of stakeholders and video interviews to narrow down the candidates.

Anyone that has attended the work sessions and board meetings knows that the board has not taken this search lightly. Throughout the process, the board and interim superintendent Roy Nichols have provided updates, letting the public know where the search stood.

Transparency through a search like this one can only be a good thing.

For those who aren’t aware, the board is fairly restricted in what it can announce publicly under Georgia state law. Following the law, the board cannot release the names of more than three finalists and now must wait at least 14 days to announce the new superintendent.

In the days ahead, I plan to reach out to each of the finalists. I hope each will agree to an interview so that the community can get to know each of them.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have worked with DiChiara before. He was charged with leading the state takeover of Selma City Schools during my four years working for The Selma Times-Journal. I have not met Shumate or Aune, though I look forward to speaking to both of them.

The community has already weighed in with several comments on the finalists on social media. Some were positive, others questioned how much outsiders could know about the children of Troup County.

To those people, I ask that you are patient. Whoever the next superintendent is will be making decisions that impact our students, schools and community a great deal, but let’s wait until those decisions come up before we start criticizing anyone.

As for the board, I hope it’ll circle back to the five character traits it laid out in September. At that time, the search was just starting, so there were no names or resumes to choose from.

The board said then it was looking for a candidate who values community involvement and has a proven track record of success. The board also wanted the candidate to be personable, be a visionary and be a strong strategic planner.

If the board picks the candidate who most embodies those five qualities, I think it’ll be fair to say the school system was successful in its search.