Schools chief in hospital

Roberson undergoing tests, his family says

Richmond County schools Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson was in good condition Wednesday evening at Medical College of Georgia Hospital after complaining of severe headaches and fatigue the night before, his family said.

Once he felt those symptoms, Roberson was taken to University Hospital, then transferred to MCG.

Initial reports from radio station WGAC-AM (580) indicated that Roberson had surgery after experiencing cerebral bleeding, but a family statement issued later Wednesday morning through the Richmond County school system denied that report.

"There is no truth to the information that is being reported that Dr. Roberson experienced an aneurysm last night and underwent surgery," the statement said. "Dr. Roberson was transported to the hospital last night after mentioning severe headaches and fatigue. He is currently undergoing tests and is in good condition.

"The family asks for your thoughts and prayers," the statement said.

In another statement issued Wednesday evening, the family said Roberson "remains in good condition as the medical staff continues to run a battery of tests. The family appreciates the thoughts, messages and prayers they have received from the public."

Roberson's sudden illness forced the postponement of a program scheduled for tonight at Cross Creek High School in which more than 20 Richmond County public schools were to present plans to add magnet programs. Roberson has been a driving force behind encouraging more schools to implement magnet programs, and he was to introduce the event.

Schools spokesman Louis Svehla said the district has not transferred Roberson's power to Deputy Superintendent Dr. James Whitson.

Whitson would handle any crisis as needed while Roberson is hospitalized, but he still would not have the authority to sign checks or otherwise act in the superintendent's capacity unless the school board votes to give him that power.

"(Whitson) would just carry on business as deputy superintendent as if Dr. Roberson would be out of town for a few days," Svehla said.

Roberson's contract requires him to have an annual physical examination in September or October and report the results to the board confidentially. He also is required to inform the board in executive session of any medical issues that would prevent him from performing his duties. The previous superintendent, Dr. Dana Bedden, had an identical clause in his contract.

School board members contacted Wednesday had little or no information on Roberson's current condition, but they indicated surprise at his sudden illness based on his energetic demeanor at board meetings and other public appearances.

Roberson, 55, was hired as the district's superintendent in August and has gained high marks for his immediate efforts. He is a native of Aiken County and has 32 years' experience in education, including serving as superintendent in the Marlboro County (S.C.) district, associate and acting superintendent in Edgefield County and several positions, up to associate superintendent, in Aiken County during his 27 years in that district.

Roberson started his tenure not in his administrative office on Broad Street but by visiting all 57 schools in the district to see for himself the situation in each one.

He raised eyebrows less than two months into his new position by saying his goal was to raise the district's on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent within the next three years. For the Class of 2010, the district's graduation rate was 77.5 percent.

Staff writers Bianca Cain and Tracey McManus contributed to this article.

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