Human resources director Jeff Branham will serve as interim superintendent of the Harris County School District while the board of education searches for the leader to replace the retiring Craig Dowling.
During its called meeting Wednesday, the board unanimously appointed Branham and chose the Georgia School Boards Association as the search consultant. The GSBA conducted the search in 2009 that attracted 44 applicants and led to the hiring of Dowling from Rockdale County, where he was assistant superintendent for instruction.
Dowling is scheduled to retire as of Dec. 31. He succeeded Susan Andrews, who left in 2009 to become the superintendent in Muscogee County before retiring in 2012.
Board chairwoman Karen Hopkins explained the importance of naming Branham interim superintendent now.
"Dr. Dowling has done an excellent job the last four and a half years, and we greatly appreciate his giving us 90 days notice," she said in a news release. "But, in looking ahead, we realized two things: It would be more difficult to find a new superintendent in the middle of the school year and that it would be unfair to expect someone new to the job to immediately begin the intense budget planning that will begin Jan. 1, 2014.
"Though Mr. Branham has been very clear he does not want to be considered as a candidate for new superintendent, he has graciously agreed to serve as interim superintendent. This gives us more time to carefully select the new superintendent. We are more interested in quality than in making a hasty decision."
Branham has been a professional educator for 30 years, including 20 in Harris County. He was principal of Mulberry Creek Elementary (1998-2010) and Harris County High (1996-98) before becoming human resources director. He will start his duties as interim superintendent Sept. 28 and return to his current job when the new superintendent arrives.
"I deem it an honor and a privilege to serve the students, teachers, parents and the board of education as the interim superintendent of the Harris County School District," he said in the release.
Dowling will remain part of the district's leadership through the end of the year as advisory resource superintendent.
"We are very fortunate to have someone of Mr. Branham's experience and skills available to fill the void during the search process," Dowling said in the release. " I want to thank the board, our outstanding faculty and staff and the Harris County community for giving me the opportunity to serve as superintendent and for making me and my family feel at home from the minute we arrived. I can't think of a better place to have worked and a better place to retire."