When Acting Superintendent James Whitson announced last week his plans to retire June 30, Richmond County Board of Education officials acknowledged it was a time to make decisions.
Whitson spent 14 months filling in for Superintendent Frank Roberson, who has been absent since February 2011, when he underwent emergency surgery for an abnormal clustering of blood vessels on the brain. Whitson was asked to multi-task by leading the district while continuing his normal duties as deputy superintendent.
So with Roberson still not back full time and Whitson heading for retirement, who will fill the district’s top two positions?
Board President Alex Howard said the board will hold a meeting this week to discuss Roberson’s status. With the school year coming to a close, several scenarios could play out with the school system’s highest position.
The first scenario, one supported by the Richmond County Council of PTAs, is that the board of education will continue waiting for Roberson’s doctors to release him to work full time. Roberson returned to work part time in December but is not allowed to work more than six hours per week. After Whitson retires, the school system by law would have to assign the next highest ranking administrator to fill in full time – Executive Director of Middle Schools Virginia Bradshaw, according to school board attorney Pete Fletcher.
“You have to have someone as superintendent,” Fletcher said.
PTA Council President Monique Braswell said the best option is to wait for Roberson’s return, no matter how long it takes. She said Roberson arrived with a plan for change in the district and must be given more time to achieve his goals.
“Dr. Roberson came here and he changed the morale of the students, the parents, the teachers,” Braswell said. “He made great changes in the short time he was here.”
Another scenario is that the board votes to end Roberson’s contract and begin a search for a new superintendent. Roberson was hired in August 2010 on a three-year $170,000 contract. According to the charter, the board can use a majority vote to remove a superintendent who has become mentally or physically incapacitated.
In that case, the next highest ranking administrator would still act as an interim until the board hires a permanent superintendent. Fletcher said the board could accept applications from current school system employees and conduct an outside, national search for a candidate pool.
The deputy superintendent position would not have to be immediately filled because the organizational chart can be determined by the school board. Once a superintendent is hired, he or she would decide to hire either a deputy or two associate superintendents.
Chief Human Resources Officer Norman Hill said there is currently no superintendent opening and a deputy superintendent position has not been posted.
Whatever the situation, Fletcher said board members and administrators will make sure business as usual is taken care of in the interest of the students.
“If Dr. Roberson comes back or if he’s going to be delayed, we would have a road map,” Fletcher said. “If the worst happened, the school board would start an immediate search.”