Public calls for local candidate as new Richmond County superintendent

Retired Principal Calvin Holland Sr. speaks about the qualities he believes the board should look for in a new superintendent. Holland and others addressed the school board Monday night.

A sparse yet vocal crowd of concerned residents and former and current teachers attended a public forum Monday night to express what they'd like to see in a new Richmond County schools superintendent.

Several said they wanted someone community-minded, and a couple of people asked that a local person be considered.

"We should look at someone already in the district, in house," said Cleveland O'Steen, who teaches at a private school in Richmond County.

O'Steen told Richmond County school board members and a representative of the Georgia School Boards Association, which is overseeing the search, that a local person would have "a deep-hearted commitment" to the district.

Shirley Darby agreed.

"I'd like to see a superintendent from Richmond County, from this area, who has a vested interest in this community," she said.

Darby added that she would be opposed to anyone who might try to change the school calendar to a four-day school week.

Juanita Burney, of the Rollins Area Neighborhood Association, said she's looking for someone who will again allow her organization to hold meetings at Rollins Elementary. She said her group had been told "by the current administration" that they could no longer meet there because of the cost of heat and air conditioning during meetings.

Burney said that her group has done a lot for the school and that "when there's a presence there's ownership."

"I would hope that any new superintendent would understand neighborhoods need schools and schools need neighborhoods," she said.

Former Augusta Commissioner Calvin Holland Sr. also attended as a concerned citizen and member of a newly formed local group that's assisting teachers.

"We're looking for someone who is going to set the bar high," he said, adding that it should be someone who would push for higher test scores, be visible in the community and keep more graduates from leaving the area.

Bill Sampson, an official with the school boards association, told the crowd that the public comments would be compiled with an earlier online survey and given to the school board for consideration.

He said May 28 is the deadline for applications, and the school board could begin interviews as early as June.

Board attorney Pete Fletcher said that as of Friday about nine applications had been received.

Current Superintendent Dana Bedden has accepted a position as head of the school district in Irving, Texas, starting in July.

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