New superintendent makes trip to Troup County ahead of start date

Published 5:00 am Thursday, May 9, 2019

New Troup County Superintendent Brian Shumate was back in LaGrange this week as he continues to prepare for his July 1 start date.

Shumate, who was named the new Troup County superintendent in February, is currently finishing up his role as superintendent in the Medford City School System in Medford, Oregon. However, he’s also starting to look forward to what lies ahead for him in LaGrange, as he takes over for Interim Superintendent Dr. Roy Nichols in less than 60 days.

In the meantime, he’ll be moving to Troup County and getting up to speed on the school system. Like any newcomer, he’s still trying to learn his way around.

“There comes a day when you don’t need a GPS anymore,” Shumate said. “It’ll take time. I’m very excited to be here and think this is a great opportunity.”

Shumate said as his time in Oregon winds down, he’s starting to turn his attention a little more to the job he’ll take on in Troup County. 

“It’s sort of a sliding scale,” Shumate said. “The amount of time I’m spending [on Troup County] is coming this way the closer it gets.”

Shumate said he’s been consulted on several items that the school system is currently working on, including the school system’s projected $118,276,659 budget for fiscal year 2020.

“Dr. Nichols and I communicate regularly. He has been a real Godsend for this community in stepping up this year to serve this district,” Shumate said. “He has briefed me, and he knows whatever decisions are made right now are going to be mine to live with.”

Shumate said he’s looked over the budget, though he hasn’t been very involved in putting it together. The budget process starts for the school system as early as February.

“I just want to make sure I’m not walking into a huge deficit situation, that’s my only directive. That’s been the goal of the cabinet and Dr. Nichols and the board as well,” Shumate said. “They have been very financially and fiscally prudent. We’ve got to make sure we spend money where we get the best results for kids.”

Shumate said he plans to meet individually with each school board member and with all of his principals. He believes principals are the men and women who enact real change in the school system.

“While there are a lot of people that care about this school district, I really believe our principals are the drivers, and we have to have great building leaders if we are really going to move forward and improve results for students,” Shumate said. “I will be talking to the principals regularly about their leadership and district initiatives to support their leadership.”

The Troup County School System recently completed the One to One initiative, supplying Chromebooks for students in third grade through twelfth grade. Shumate said TCSS will have to ensure that it manages all of the challenges that come with that technology, including the cost of replacements, how teachers use the Chromebooks and internet availability.

“We bit off a big piece here,” Shumate said. “We are going to have to really keep up with it and manage it.”

He’s up to date on the athletic facilities being constructed at LaGrange High School and Troup High School. He drove past the LaGrange site on Monday.

“I think all these facilities are going to help in giving students more opportunities in multiple things — not just athletics — but in the arts and other activities to really engage students in the high school process,” Shumate said.

He said he’s been extremely impressed by the community’s support of SPLOST, which paid for both of those projects.

“The investment of the community in the SPLOST has been really great and is something I have not experienced before in my career,” he said. “That investment will help us free up general fund money to improve the educational process, as well as the SPLOST projects that create spaces for kids to learn and take care of other infrastructure needs.”

He’s already examined multiple areas where he’d like to see improvement, including statewide test scores. Troup County scored below state average in the Career and College Ready Performance Index scores in 2018.

“If they are going to publish statewide performance data on math, reading, science and social studies, I want Troup County to be mentioned in at least the upper third of the state,” Shumate said. “We’ve got a ways to go.”

Shumate said the key to improving literacy is for the school system to reach out beyond its own walls to make sure the community understands the importance of reading at a young age. He said the school system will also look at what it’s doing and try to improve upon that. 

“It’s a continuous process, meaning you can’t wait until they show up in the first grade, and they are already behind,” Shumate said. “We’ve got to work with our pre-school programs and our birth to pre-K in the community as well as family literacy to try to get kids off on a better foot. Then, we have a better shot at getting them to read on grade level.”

Shumate also wants to see the county do a better job of managing its 150-vehicle bus fleet. He said 10-15 of those buses should be replaced each year to ensure there isn’t a build up of old buses at one time.

“We have to get on a better schedule to replace buses every year to make sure the buses the kids are riding in are safe, comfortable and reliable and are something parents would want their kids to ride in,” Shumate said.

Shumate said he’s impressed with the passion the community has shown about the school system and believes everything is in place for TCSS to be very successful.

“I think people really care here. People are very community minded,” Shumate said.

“They want this school system desperately to be very successful. I think the infrastructure is in place. We have good facilities, great families and great kids.”

He also realizes that the school system is a large part of the growth of Troup County, as it can be a selling point when people move to Georgia.

“The first question people ask when they move to the county is ‘tell me about your schools,’” Shumate said. “I want our community to be proud of these schools and to use them as a selling tool to bring business, industry and families to Troup County.”