Three local school districts to have new leaders Tuesday

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comJune 30, 2014 

Tuesday will be a day of leadership transition for three local school districts:

• Jimmy Martin, who has been Chattahoochee County's superintendent the past six years, will start as the superintendent in Harris County.

• Chattahoochee County assistant superintendent Richard Cooley will become interim superintendent.

• Randy Wilkes, who has been Crenshaw County (Ala.) superintendent since 2010, will begin 110 miles away in Phenix City.

The Harris County board unanimously voted April 10 to hire Martin as its superintendent. He replaces Craig Dowling, who retired Dec. 31, 2013. Jeff Branham has served as Harris County's interim superintendent and returns to his previous role as human resources director now that Martin is on board.

Cooley, a 38-year educator, has been a teacher and administrator in Chattahoochee County since 2006. His previous career stops include Phenix City (as Glenwood School business manager) and Lee County (as teacher and assistant principal at Smiths Station High School, principal at Wacoochee Junior High School and assistant superintendent for accounting and finance).

"Mr. Cooley, he's already in the system and has worked under Dr. Martin for several years," said Christy Humber, the Chattahoochee County Board of Education chairwoman. "He can stay on top of things and keep things going the way they need to go."

Martin called Cooley "very even-keeled. When he makes decisions, he looks at all sides of the issues, and he tries to make decisions as fair as he can."

Cooley said Martin has left the district in good shape.

"Dr. Martin has pulled them along by the hand the last six years, so they're going to miss that little TLC," Cooley said, "but at the same time, the school system is looking forward, and I'm very optimistic for its future."

Cooley, 67, made it clear to the board that he doesn't want the permanent job because he plans to retire in two years.

Bill Sampson, a consultant for the Georgia School Boards Association, is conducting the superintendent search for the Chattahoochee County board. The vacancy attracted 18 candidates by the June 13 deadline, Humber said.

Sampson is doing background checks and will present the qualified applications to the board July 8, Humber said. The board then will decide which candidates to interview and whether and how to have the public meet the finalists, she said.

It's unrealistic to expect to hire a superintendent by the time Chattahoochee County's school year starts Aug. 1, Humber said, but she figures the end of August is a reasonable goal.

"We want to move as fast as we can," she said, "but we don't want to rush the process."

Wilkes takes over in Phenix City from interim superintendent Rod Hinton, who came out of retirement after the board unanimously voted Nov. 26 to oust Larry DiChiara.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.


The public is invited to a "meet and greet" welcoming Randy Wilkes as the new superintendent of Phenix City Public Schools. The reception will be July 10, from 2 to 4 p.m., in the Phenix City Board of Education technology building, behind system's headquarters at 1212 Ninth Ave.

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