Board picks Roberson to lead schools

Dr. Frank Roberson

Dr. Frank Roberson said Tuesday that he was honored by his selection as Richmond County's next school superintendent and hopes to get started by Aug. 23.


Reached by telephone in Washington, D.C., after being tentatively named to the post, he said, "It's just a wonderful humbling experience -- to be able to come back home, to come back to your own community."

Roberson is an Aiken County native and has a home in North Augusta.

He most recently has been the superintendent of Marlboro County School District in Bennettsville, S.C., and was in Washington on Tuesday as part of a five-member team representing South Carolina in its pitch to receive a second round of federal Race to the Top funding.

Roberson said he already has mentioned his candidacy for the Richmond County post to Marlboro County officials, and a transition process would allow him to start in Richmond County this month.

The Richmond County school board unanimously agreed Tuesday to name Roberson as the district's next superintendent, tentative to contract negotiations. Board President Marion Barnes said the hope is that a contract could become ratified by the board by as early as its meeting next Tuesday.

Barnes said he feels Roberson will continue the progress made by Dr. Dana Bedden, who left in June to take a superintendent's job in Irving, Texas.

"That's one of the reasons I voted for him," Barnes said. "He showed us a lot of energy when he interviewed with us."

Board member Barbara Pulliam agreed.

"I think he's going to be very good," she said, adding that she most liked that Roberson is "truly an educator with a hands-on philosophy."

Roberson said Tuesday night that he wants to move the system "to a world-class status." He said his first order of business would be to visit the county's schools.

"The first day, the report to the office will be at the school house," he said.

Roberson was first named last month among a top-three candidate pool that included Dr. Roy "Cole" Pugh, who retired in June as superintendent of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District in Fort Worth, Texas, and Dr. Faron Hollinger, who retired as superintendent of the Baldwin County Public Schools in Bay Minette, Alabama.

Roberson and Pugh became the top two candidates after Hollinger recently withdrew from the race after being unable to reschedule a second interview with the board that he canceled because of a medical procedure for a severe case of laryngitis.

Roberson is not new to area schools. He served as interim superintendent for Edgefield County, S.C., in 2006-07, according to his résumé. The school board there named him acting superintendent in March 2007, but contract negotiations stalled and he applied for the then-open Aiken County school superintendent's position.

Roberson said that at the time he was up front with the Edgefield County board that he had applied for the Aiken job. He said the holdup in Edgefield came about because he wanted a contract that would have let him leave with 60 days' notice if he was offered the Aiken job. He has said he and the board parted on good terms, and have "a tremendous amount of respect" for one another.

Roberson's résumé says he was an "education consultant/evaluator/entrepreneur" from November 2007 to July 2009 before taking his current superintendent's role in Marlboro County, a system that has 4,800 students. Richmond County has more than 32,000 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 with Richmond County.

Roberson touts education experience dating back to 1979.

In other action

- A committee of the Richmond County school board agreed Tuesday to have staffers examine an idea of starting the school year later in August by 2012. Some administrators said an earlier August start allows for more preparation time for standardized tests, but board member Barbara Pulliam -- who argued the early start is bad because of hot weather -- said setting a goal two years out gives time to develop a solution. Board member Jimmy Atkins suggested the system look into whether instruction days could be lengthened to possibly cut 20 days off the start of the school year.

- Board members heard from a representative of The First Stick Program, which offered grant money to start a lacrosse team at a Richmond County school. The board asked its athletic director to meet with the First Stick official and come back with a recommendation.

- Board members heard an update on a new Butler High School gym recently damaged by flood waters. Board members were told officials are still trying to determine why a downpour caused such flooding and that the incident is still being investigated.



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