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School board discusses expectations for superintendent during brainstorm session

The puzzle solving exercises and personality tests that school board members worked through Monday were far from standard school board activity, but those activities came with a more important purpose — establishing a set of expectations for Superintendent Brian Shumate.

Shumate was officially sworn in as the new superintendent of the Troup County School System in July, following several rounds of community interviews. In the short time since then, he has hosted a back to school event for all of the TCSS employees, visited every school in the county and made a point of going to events in the community ranging from city council meetings to fundraisers to football games.

McPherson and Jacobson LLC, the firm that led the superintendent search, recommended that the board establish a short list of high priority items for Shumate to focus on during the next six months.

Following the consultant’s recommendation, the school board’s condensed list for Shumate had just three items — build relationships throughout the district as an approachable leader, assess and build a leadership team and work to improve district instructional coherence. However, Shumate said that he plans to work to keep all 12 of the items on the board’s longer list in mind moving forward.

One item of note on the longer list included improving kindergarten through third grade reading, a consistent focus for the school system in recent years. During the hiring process, McPherson and Jacobson held several meetings to receive feedback from community members. Shumate said he still has all of that information and will keep it in mind as he moves forward too.

“Those are things that I know I need to do,” Shumate said. “A part of what I have to do is assess this particular situation based on what I walked into and what the feeling was. All that community involvement stuff, I read that 20 times before I came and interviewed.”

At the end of the meeting, Shumate shared a print out of some of the information that he shared at the back to school kickoff event in August. Several of the goals listed were similar to the priorities listed by the school board, including empowering principals, strong communication and supporting schools.