The field of candidates for the schools superintendent position is much more crowded than expected, with 49 applications received by the school board before the February 28th deadline.
Currently, Dr. Charles Webb is serving as interim superintendent. He was hired on a six-month contract after Dr. Lula Mae Perry resigned on January 1st. Dr. Perry was initially hired as interim superintendent in 2013 to replace Dr. Ben Desper. A few weeks after taking office as interim, the school board at that time asked her to extend her initial contract.
Of the applicants for the position, 10 are female and 39 are male; 11 are experienced superintendents and the remainder have experience as principals, assistant superintendents or other leadership roles in education, according to a press release from the Pickens County School System. Most applicants are from Georgia, including some from Pickens County, but there are eight states represented in the applicant pool.
“This is the highest number of applications we have had for a Georgia superintendent vacancy in recent years – it’s also the highest survey response we have ever experienced,” said Dr. Sandy Addis of King-Cooper & Associates, the firm hired to facilitate the superintendent search. “We attribute this to the desirability of the position and to the strong level of community and staff support that exists for the school system.”
In previous comments to the board, Dr. Addis said the Pickens system is highly desirable because it has a “positive reputation.”
Back in February the school board asked the community to participate in a survey that asked questions about what qualifications, skills and personality traits were most important in a superintendent.
Board Chair Daniel Bell said he was pleasantly surprised by the number of respondents, which included 471 community members and 201 employees from the school system.
Of community respondents, 54.99 percent were either parents, guardian or relative of a student; 4.88 percent were students; 10.62 percent were employees or a relative of an employee; 4.67 percent have business interests in or near Pickens; and 24.84 percent said they were concerned citizens/residents of Pickens and the surrounding area.
Of those who responded from the school system, 67.16 percent were teachers; 23.88 percent were support staff; and 8.96 percent were administrators.
According to the press release, community members and employees ranked honesty, high ethical and moral character, strong work ethic, willingness to make tough decisions, and willingness to listen to parents, students, and staff as the top five most important qualities.
“The board greatly appreciates the response from parents, staff, and community members – it’s important to hear everyone’s voice,” said Bell. “The results are one of the many components we must consider when selecting a new superintendent. We look forward to interviewing candidates”
Bell also said he was surprised respondents did not rank being local higher on the spectrum of superintendent traits. “History of successful employment with the Pickens County School System” ranked as one of the lowest of the attributes in the survey. A common complaint from residents and school system employees over the past few years, which was plagued with a high turnover rate of top leadership at schools, is that the superintendent at the time was hired from outside the district instead of promoting from within.
“When you talk to people they say they want local, but the results don’t show that as being as high of importance with either the community or employees,” Bell said. “I was surprised by that.”
The press release states that the school board, with assistance from Dr. Addis, is now reviewing the applications, receiving reference information, considering survey responses, and designing the interview process. In the coming weeks, the board will conduct first-round interviews and hope to name the next superintendent by mid-to-late April.
A link to the survey results is on the district website at www.pickenscountyschools.ga.