Decatur School Board weighs options on superintendent search

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt March 31, 2015
City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards announced her resignation at the School Board's March 10, 2015 meeting. Photo by Carey O'Neil

City Schools of Decatur Superintendent Phyllis Edwards announced her resignation at the School Board’s March 10, 2015 meeting. Photo by Carey O’Neil

This story has been updated. 

Superintendent Phyllis Edwards’s decision to resign as head of City Schools of Decatur came as a surprise.

It also added an additional layer of complexity to a discussion about the future of the city’s school system.

Edwards is the public face of the school system’s efforts to sell voters on a General Obligation bond for school construction to provide more space for the rise CSD’s enrollment. Current City Schools of Decatur enrollment is 4,300 students. CSD consultants project it will be more than 6,000 by 2020.

The bond could be placed on the ballot as early as this November, but the details, including how much the system would like to borrow, are still in flux. Cost estimates have ranged as low as $60 million and upwards of $80 million.

While Edwards has agreed to will finish out the school year and has offered to stay on till the end of the 2015, that may not be enough time for board members to find a new superintendent. The timing of her announcement, coming before the close of the current school year, creates some logistical challenges for School Board members as they search for her successor. Ideally, a new superintendent would start at the beginning of a new school year.

“The ideal time for a switch would be in the summer, but we’re not going to be ready by then,” School Board member Lewis Jones said.

There’s also the question of whether the School Board will conduct its search through the Georgia School Board Association or hire an outside search firm. Board members will hear a presentation from GSBA during a work session Tuesday evening, Chairman Garrett Goebel said.

He said while working through GSBA might allow the board to move forward more quickly, it also might limit the length of the search.

“I think six to nine months is probably what’s considered and exhaustive superintendent search,” Goebel said. “What we did say at the last meeting … is that the board would seek executive search services and would appoint a search committee in consultation with the search firm.”

Awarding that contract could require issuing a request for proposal, an invitation for companies to bid on becoming the search firm the school system would use. The RFP process could add weeks to the search, possibly pushing it back into 2016.

If the year closes and Edwards’s replacement isn’t named, the board may have to consider appointing an interim superintendent.

Jones said he does not expect the process to move quickly.

“Our sense is it’s going to be longer rather than shorter,” he said.

So where does this leave talk of the bond for school construction? Jones and Goebel said that the conversation will continue.

“The timing certainly makes things a little more interesting,” Goebel said. “In the end, I think it comes down to … being able to put out a good plan with good communications, showing this is the need and allowing the community to weigh in on how we go about addressing the need.”

“Full steam ahead,” Jones said. “Phyllis is resigning and we will transition to a new superintendent and leadership. We obviously still need to build. We have capacity issues and the only way that we can solve them is to build additional classrooms, and so that’s going to have to happen either way.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the intent of quotes attributed to the School Board chairman regarding the RFP process and the use of GSBA to conduct the search. 

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  • Darren

    Will you be reporting on the sessions that CSD is having today for the public? I wanted to go but can’t make it.

    • Darren, I will make this evening’s session if I can. Taking care of a new baby and I may be needed at home. I am assuming the materials will be published on the website, and I will follow up if I cannot make it.

  • wwwoolf

    Taking the time needed is fine as long as it results in a good decision. Those of us who have been around here for a while know all-too-well the consequences of making a bad decision when it comes to a school superintendent.

  • An American Patriot

    Please take all the time needed and please delay any decisions on school projects until the new superintendent has had time to assess all the proposals. Who knows, he/she may have some different ideas about how to manage the process. I hope so…..I haven’t been real excited about what I’ve heard so far. Folks, $80M is a lot of money that we’ll be paying for for thirty years. Let’s take our time and get it right.

  • Eric

    “…offered to stay on till the end”

    Shouldn’t that be ’til, as in the abbreviated version of until? Or has it become an acceptable form due to its common usage?

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