Richard Hyatt: An eventful year for the Muscogee County school board

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerMay 31, 2013 

Muscogee County teachers are ending a peculiar three-day workweek and students are celebrating the end of another school year. As they look back on the year that was, it is a good time to see what the school board has been doing this past year.

• June 2012: Susan Andrews says goodbye as superintendent and the board turns to a familiar leader. John Phillips becomes interim superintendent, but no one defines interim. Teachers are told to expect five furlough days.

• July 2012: A Nebraska search firm hired to help find a permanent superintendent says it hopes to have a person in place by January 2013. Closer to home, seven nominees rejected in May are approved as principals, and the board names a new middle school for the late Judge Aaron Cohn.

• August 2012: Two incumbent board members are defeated for re-election in a campaign highlighted by the emergence of a "Boot the Board" movement.

• September 2012: The opening of a new Carver High draws a crowd, but public forums conducted by the superintendent search firm do not.

• November 2012: Accepting the administration's recommendation, the board closes the Academic Success Center.

• December 2012: Semifinalists for the superintendent's job are interviewed in Columbus. Susan Andrews, who previously said she wanted more time to visit a new grandson in Arizona, becomes an assistant state superintendent in Atlanta.

• January 2013: Cathy Williams doesn't seek re-election as board chairwoman and Rob Varner takes over. Board fires the Omaha search firm and hires Glenn Brock, an Atlanta headhunter they have used twice before. Board eliminates year-round schools.

• February 2013: Eugene White, a former superintendent in Indianapolis and a Russell County native, says he wants the Muscogee County job. Furlough days are eliminated from the 2013-14 school calendar.

• March 2013: Board asks police chief to call in the GBI to investigate attorney Frank Myers and state Sen. Josh McKoon, who are critics of the board keeping the same law firm since 1950 without putting the issue out for bids.

• April 2013: Board members go to Atlanta on a Sunday afternoon to interview a candidate for superintendent. District bans

corporal punishment.

• May 2013: To deal with state budget cuts, the board votes to close Edgewood Elementary and Marshall Middle, hints that 40 teachers may be laid off, and an administrator announces six more closings are needed.

It was an eventful year with more than its share of land mines. It started with the mistreatment of potential principals and ended with the last-minute closing of two schools.

But the common thread is the unending search for a superintendent -- a lifeless process that has continued for 445 days and demands a public explanation. It's time -- past time, really -- for the board to hire a permanent leader.

Even if means another trip to Atlanta.

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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