For the second time in less than a month, a Columbus area school district superintendent has departed.
David McCurry has retired as Chattahoochee County’s superintendent, he confirmed in a phone interview Tuesday with the Ledger-Enquirer.
McCurry’s retirement follows the May 10 resignation of Jimmy Martin as Harris County’s superintendent amid a dispute with some board members. Martin was ChattCo’s superintendent for six years before the Harris County board unanimously hired him in April 2014.
The ChattCo school board appointed Tim Buchanan as interim superintendent. Buchanan is the CEO of ChattCo’s College and Career Academy.
McCurry, 51, retires after four years as ChattCo’s superintendent and 30½ years as an educator in Georgia.
“I was very torn, very torn,” he said. “Without a doubt, the past four years have been the highlight of my career. I love Chattahoochee County. I love the community. The board of education has been nothing but supportive of what we’ve done. It’s a great school system with really good people. Things are going really well, and I’m looking forward to what they will do in the years to come.”
McCurry’s wife, Jackie, retired in November as the federal programs director in the Grady County School District, where he was principal of Cairo High School. So he started thinking about joining her in retirement and ending the back-and-forth drives they did to spend weekends together the past four years. Then he told the ChattCo board in January that he was considering retirement, McCurry said.
“I love what I do,” he said, “but it’s always been my goal to retire early and look at other opportunities.”
Those opportunities include already signing an agreement with the Technical College System of Georgia to help train the approximately 40 College and Career Academy boards around the state. He also plans to “start looking for a whole new career,” McCurry said.
Making him most proud of his tenure in ChattCo, McCurry said, is the “culture shift of the school system as a whole to have high expectations.”
ChattCo has reached some of those high expectations by establishing a College and Career Academy at the high school, where more than 200 of the approximately 460 students in grades 9-12 took courses this past school year. Renovations this summer will upgrade two wings by the start of this coming school year, and new construction will produce two labs scheduled to open in January.
ChattCo’s middle school was on the state’s chronically failing list when McCurry became superintendent, but, based on its improvement on the College and Career Ready Performance Index the past two years and preliminary results of this year’s scores, the middle school is expected to be off that list in the fall, he said.
McCurry also hired new principals at the elementary school, middle school and high school during his tenure.
“The board has been so supportive and very trusting of the decisions I made,” he said.
Christy Humber, the chairwoman of the five-member school board, called McCurry “one of the best superintendents in the state of Georgia, especially as a first-time superintendent. Mr. McCurry is the one who gives credit to others, but ... he was the key to our progress in the right direction.”
McCurry “mended several relationships” with the Chattahoochee County Commission and “always reached out to the community,” Humber said in Tuesday’s phone interview with the Ledger-Enquirer. “You have to come together to be successful, have everyone on board, and he did that.”
Humber said the school board appointed Buchanan as interim superintendent because he has experience leading ChattCo’s College and Career Academy board and “just felt like a good fit.”
The school board hired Buchanan in June 2016 as CTAE and federal programs director, then promoted him to College and Career Academy CEO in April 2017, but he started working with ChattCo schools in 2011 as Columbus Technical College’s director of high school initiatives. In those seven years, he helped ChattCo increase its number of students taking dual-enrollment college courses from seven to 274, he said.
But he hadn’t considered leading the school system, even on an interim basis, Buchanan said.
“It never crossed my mind,” he told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Tuesday. “But I’m humbled by the request and certainly honored, and I’m up to do whatever task our board asks me to do.”
Buchanan joined Humber in calling McCurry “a visionary” when describing the impact he made on ChattCo.
“He changed a lot of our lives,” Buchanan said. “… He put us on a path to success for our students. We would have given anything if he wouldn’t have retired, but the path he put us on is going to lead our students to so many opportunities they never had before.”
Buchanan said he hopes the board is “looking for somebody who just keeps us on that path. We’re doing the right things here, so we just need to keep plugging away and enhancing the wonderful programs we have in place.”
Asked whether he would apply for the superintendent position when it is posted, Buchanan said, “More than likely, yes.”
And he would be allowed to apply, Humber confirmed, but no plans for the superintendent search have been announced.
“Mr. McCurry will be very hard to replace,” Humber said, “so we want to take our time.”