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Public: Super should be good communicator
BoEForum 1
The crowd at Thursday's forum did not fill up the school board's meeting room. - photo by Submitted / Coastal Courier
One member of the public and two insiders signed up to take advantage of the Liberty school board's invitation to comment on selection of a new school superintendent Thursday.
Christy McKnight identified herself as a military spouse and mother of four, and shared her concerns about the many children of soldiers who attend the Liberty public schools.
Pointing out the percentage of military students is significant in schools, McKnight said a new superintendent "must be knowledgeable of the military and our transient lifestyle that brings a myriad of issues and challenges for us."
McKnight said the transfer of credits for students who move is a constant problem.
"The enrollment process should be very user friendly," she said. "It was not!"
McKnight called for a superintendent who is "engaged in providing information," and is "open to new ideas" including those that might be brought from other states and other areas by military families.
Dr. Becky Kelly, the school system's executive director for the division of exceptional learning, told the board she hoped they would hire a superintendent who was familiar with the basics of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other federal laws affecting education. The new superintendent should know "something about special education," she said.
Dave Smith, Fort Stewart's school liaison officer, who meets regularly with the board, said he had tried to spread the word of the forum among the area's military population and that he had received an email from an Army family.
Smith said the email called for a superintendent who was "embracing communication with both the civilian and military sides." The writer suggested that Liberty's new school chief might come from another school district that also has military families.
After the three speakers had their say, Board Chairman Lily Baker, drawing from her experience as a classroom teacher, started calling on people in the audience - mostly employees of the BoE.
One man said he would like to have a school superintendent, "who has lived in Liberty County for at least 10 years, preferably longer."
Another asked for a school CEO from Georgia, if not a local.
"Our state is different. We don't need to have that conversation about 'how we did it in Oklahoma' or other places."
Another speaker said a new superintendent should have experience at the system level. And maybe in a district with demographics like those of Liberty.
A common thread through many comments was the need for good communications skills. Bill Sampson of the state school board association, which is conducting the search for a new superintendent, said the board had already placed a priority on communication.
Several speakers also mentioned Interim Superintendent Harley Grove, saying, "We would like a superintendent like Mr. Grove," and "Mr. Grove would be a good superintendent..." Grove, the retired head of the Wayne County school system, has insisted he is not a candidate for the job.
One member of the audience said he hoped a new school chief would focus on academic achievement. Another hoped the superintendent would be "interested in what the students are interested in."
Dempsey Golden, chairman of the Long County BoE, also attended the forum. Long is also searching for a new superintendent and said he wanted to see how the forum went.
Baker introduced the school system's new public relations facilitator, Demere Sikes and thanked those who attended the forum. Speaking of the superintendent search, she said, "We're really getting ready to run with this now."
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