School board was transparent through search
Published 6:00 am Saturday, February 23, 2019
After an exhaustive search, the Troup County School System named its new superintendent Thursday night.
Brian Shumate, a Louisville, Kentucky native, will be making the move from Medford, Oregon to take over the school system in Troup County. His official start date is July 1.
There are more than 2,000 miles separating Medford and LaGrange, but thanks to technology and the ease of access from LaGrange to the Atlanta airport, Shumate said he will be able to stay up to date on TCSS as he finishes his duties in Oregon.
For what it’s worth, I’ve talked to Shumate twice — once when he was named a finalist and once when he was named superintendent.
On Thursday night, I called him right before he was scheduled to have a press conference in Oregon to announce he was leaving, but he took 10 minutes on the phone to talk about Troup County and how excited he was about the future.
He got off the phone and went straight into a press conference, which I watched via live stream from an Oregon television station. Shumate answered every question, talked about his time in Medford and thanked everyone for the relationships he has built while in that position. It’s hard to handle such an announcement better than that.
Of course, for the school board and Shumate, it’ll be everything that happens after July 1 that determines whether he’s a good fit to move TCSS forward. Regardless of how things go then, it’s important to recognize that the school board went about this search the right way.
From the very beginning, the board talked about getting stakeholder involvement. Board members wanted to hear from teachers, students, parents, administrators and business leaders, and they did.
Through listening sessions, every person in Troup County had an opportunity to give feedback on the search. The public was asked about things the new superintendent should know, characteristics the board should value in the new superintendent and other similar questions.
At the time, that feedback may not have seemed all that important, but I can tell you it was. Each finalist for the position was sent the entire packet of stakeholder feedback, and during my interviews with them, all three candidates brought up that feedback with no prompting from me.
The school board actually had changes of its own during the search process, too. Ted Alford and Alfred McNair retired from the school board, making way for Becky Grubbs and Tanya Jones-Cameron. That can be a complicated transition, but Grubbs and Jones-Cameron were brought in for their thoughts in the beginning, during a public discussion on characteristics of the new superintendent.
A few weeks ago, the school board announced three finalists, the most allowed under Georgia law, and in general kept the public informed with the search. As nice as it would be to know who else applied, the board isn’t allowed to release that information.
Many have lamented the lack of a local finalist, and while that would be great in theory, it was clear the school board valued finding the best overall candidate. If that person was in Oregon, then so be it. The students of Troup County deserve the best, regardless of that person’s zip code.
There are many big decisions to be made in the months and years ahead. Just like any other large-scale operation, the school system has its successes and struggles. Literacy remains an issue, but graduation rates are now above state average. The use of technology in the classroom continues to grow seemingly every day, and the school system has to keep up with new, innovative ways to teach students. Teacher retention continues to be an ongoing discussion. There are countless other examples, too.
Shumate and the board will get to work together on all of those issues, hopefully for years to come.
The community will watch closely as they grapple through those complicated issues, speaking up when something looks awry and applauding for successes.
Until then, I think it’s important to recognize the thoroughness of the search process, and to applaud the school board for the way it handled the search. Transparency is always the best policy.