AIKEN --- Beth Everitt of New Mexico will step into the Aiken County schools superintendent position by early 2008. Dr. Everitt was approved as the school system's next leader on a 6-3 vote by the Aiken County Board of Education on Tuesday evening.
Currently serving as superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, Dr. Everitt was the only candidate to hold a previous superintendent position for an urban school district.
"Of the three finalists, she has the most experience," board member John Bradley said. "She interviewed exceptionally well and was knowledgeable about educational management and was able to answer questions about our school district."
The 31/2-year contract will pay Dr. Everitt $160,000 annually, more than $2,000 above the salary of former Superintendent Linda Eldridge.
The racially divided vote received groans from the crowd, many of which came to show support for candidate Frank Roberson. David Mathis was the third finalist.
Board members Levi Green, Rosemary English and Wesley Hightower voted against approving Dr. Everitt. Mr. Green said it wasn't a racial vote for him.
"She's equally as qualified, but my vote would have went to a candidate that was home-grown," Mr. Green said.
Dr. Roberson and Dr. Mathis have stayed in the Augusta area to pursue administrative positions in their home county, something that should be rewarded by promoting them to superintendent, Mr. Green said during the meeting. His statement elicited "amens" from the audience.
Mr. Hightower said he had some concerns about Dr. Everitt, noting that he had heard allegations of audits and grade changes in Albuquerque schools.
"I've received calls from the community with concerns about Dr. Everitt, but I cannot answer their questions," Mr. Hightower said.
Board member Ray Fleming said he had some of the same concerns, but after research found that Dr. Everitt's school board and teacher's union found no wrongdoing, he supported her.
Dr. Everitt said she welcomes anyone in Aiken to ask her about those situations.
Dr. Everitt and other educators in the Albuquerque system were the subject of an investigation about a grade that was changed by a principal from an F to a D, allowing a former board member's son to graduate, according to a New Mexico Department of Education transcript. The department found that Dr. Everitt and other administrators weren't at fault because they didn't have adequate information about the case when they backed the principal.
"Anybody can ask me anything. You learn from things," Dr. Everitt said.
Former Aiken County Administrator James Gallman said he feels Dr. Everitt comes with baggage that will not bode well for Aiken schools.
Mr. Green said, "We'll be able to work with her, no problem."
Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAMILY: Husband, stepson, 4-year-old granddaughter
CURRENT POSITION: Superintendent, Albuquerque Public Schools (N.M.)
ALBUQUERQUE STUDENT POPULATION: 90,000
ALBUQUERQUE SCHOOLS BUDGET: $1 billion average
EDUCATION: University of New Mexico, educational administration certification, 1984; University of New Mexico, doctorate in special education and public administration, 1983; East Carolina University, master's in special education, 1979; East Carolina University, bachelor's degree in special education, 1976