Richmond County's superintendent pool down to 3

The next superintendent of Richmond County schools will come from Alabama, Texas or Augusta's own backyard -- North Augusta.

 

On Tuesday night, the Richmond County school board named its final three candidates to fill the role vacated last month by Dana Bedden: Dr. Faron Hollinger, who retired in April as superintendent of Baldwin County Public Schools in Bay Minette, Ala.; Dr. Roy "Cole" Pugh, who recently retired as superintendent of Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD in Fort Worth, Texas; and Dr. Frank Roberson, a North Augusta resident who is the superintendent of the Marlboro County School District in Bennettsville, S.C.

The board must now wait 14 days before choosing, in accordance with state law. The board plans to hold a meeting at 3:30 p.m. Aug. 10 to name its new superintendent.

Tuesday's announcement followed a search that produced 49 candidates from across the nation.

"These three stood out above the others," board member Jack Padgett said.

Roberson is not new to area schools. He served as interim superintendent for Edgefield County in 2006-07, according to his résumé. The school board there named him acting superintendent in March 2007, but he decided to apply for the then-open Aiken County school superintendent's position after contract negotiations stalled in Edgefield. He had requested a contract that would have let him leave the Edgefield post with 60 days' notice, according to reports in The Augusta Chronicle.

Roberson's résumé shows he was an "education consultant/evaluator/entrepreneur" from November 2007 to July 2009 before taking his current role as superintendent in Marlboro County, a system that has 4,800 students.

Roberson most recently was making $135,000, "but I allowed $20,000 of it to be applied to operations given state shortfalls to save teaching positions," he wrote in his application.

Roberson, who touts education experience dating back to 1979, was responsible for a $48 million annual budget.

"Please note that most of my experience in senior level administration was in a neighboring school system to Richmond County where the budget was $230,000,000," he wrote in his application, in which he also said, "I know the Richmond County School System very well."

Pugh has held the role of superintendent seven times, dating to 1983, according to his résumé. Just this year, he has been named a candidate for at least three other vacant superintendent positions.

In February, he was among four candidates vying for the Pulaski County Special School District in Arkansas, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In April, he was among six semifinalists in the search to fill the Baldwin County, Ala., position vacated by Hollinger, the Mobile Press-Register reported. Two weeks ago, he was among three finalists for the superintendent's job in Fayette County, Ga., according to The Citizen News in Fayetteville.

Pugh's application stated that he had been making $195,000 in his most recent job and was responsible for an annual budget of $127 million, overseeing a system of 16,100 students at Eagle Mountain-Saginaw.

In an education philosophy portion of his application, he wrote: "The board and superintendent must function as the leadership team and provide the vision, direction and support necessary for a successful school system."

Hollinger's education experience dates to his teaching days in 1977. He has been a superintendent one other time, in Jasper, Ala. He said that his most recent salary was $195,000, and, according to his application, he was responsible for an annual budget of $127 million and a school system with 28,022 students. Richmond County's school population is at more than 32,000.

Hollinger was a finalist in 2008 for Muscogee County, Ga., school superintendent, according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer .

In the education philosophy section of his application, he wrote: "In today's accountability environment, the successful school system has to be focused, prepared and committed to continuous improvement in student achievement."

Millage rollback

The Richmond County school board voted unanimously Tuesday to tentatively roll back its portion of the county millage by 0.232 mills, resulting in a savings of $8.12 a year for the owner of an average $100,000 home.

The decision came after the board was told that about $1 million had been realized from conservation efforts, other cost-saving measures and an improved tax base. Rolling the rate back 0.232 mill to a total school millage of 19.11 costs the school system $1,114,100.

School finance leader Gene Spires said he would have preferred the school board adopt an option that would have at least kept the millage unchanged from the past fiscal year. He said that way the $1 million from the system's fund balance could have been held over should mid-fiscal year cuts come later this year and in 2012, which he says "is going to be an awful year."

The school board will have to give final approval to the millage at a meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 12.

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