When he got to his office Friday afternoon, Richmond County school Superintendent Frank Roberson was in a good mood.
He had just come from a doctor’s appointment, one of many since February 2011, when he underwent emergency surgery for an abnormal clustering of blood vessels on his brain.
The topic of his doctor’s visit was about progress and the back-to-back budget meetings Roberson had been leading with his staff on how to deal with an estimated $23 million cut in state funding. He has been on a four-hour work day that doctors set for him at the beginning of May.
When the talk turned to his possible return to full-time status after his eight-week trial period ends in early July, Roberson was hopeful.
“The doctor and I had a discussion about that today, and I feel great about that,” Roberson said.
At the halfway point of his trial period, Roberson said he is confident he will be able to return full time for the 2012-13 school year. The Richmond County Board of Education will make its decision on whether Roberson is able to lead the system based on a doctor’s evaluation later this summer.
Roberson was absent from the school system for 11 months before returning on a part-time basis in December.
On Friday, he continued his busy routine with media interviews, a meeting with a school safety officer and time dedicated to outlining his responsibilities for next week.
This summer break, Roberson has met with staffers to complete the 2012-13 budget and has worked with transportation Director Jimmie Wiley to plan improvements next year to the bus system.
So far, much of his work has been stationary. He spends time in his office, which is decorated with artwork from students and teachers and books about Albert Einstein and President Obama.
What he really wants to do is go back to the schools and observe learning, as he did on his first day as superintendent in August 2010.
“I’ve been running into teachers going and coming on the elevator and in the halls,” Roberson said. “We’ve been embracing each other, and they can’t wait to see me back out in the schools and in the classrooms. And I can’t wait to be back out there.”
Shadowing him on his workday Friday was Portia Smith, a job coach from Decatur, Ga. employed by the school system’s insurance company to help Roberson’s transition back to his job duties two to four hours a week.
“Most of what I’ve done has been observing,” Smith said. “Just asking questions to make sure he’s OK. I’ve seen a lot of improvement.”
Venus Cain, the vice president of the school board, said she is happy to see Roberson back to work but is reluctant to draw any conclusions until the trial period is over.
Cain and other board members have worked with Roberson at board meetings but are mostly waiting to hear conclusions from his doctors.
“The last thing I want to give is false hope, but then I don’t want to give no hope,” Cain said. “I just don’t know how things are going to pan out. ... I’m still observing.”
Roberson attributes much of his recovery since surgery to rehabilitation and resting at home. He is walking with a cane but is able to drive a car again, he said.
There are not many things Roberson said he is unable to do anymore, compared with the severe impact the arteriovenous malformation had on his body more than a year ago.
Roberson, an experienced gospel musician, is even able to play his piano at home, although it’s currently out of tune.
What he said he missed the most during his absence has been the children – the reason he became an educator. Roberson began his education career as a substitute teacher at what was then Tubman High School in 1978. He continued full-time teaching, then moved into administration at school systems in South Carolina.
Now, Roberson said, Richmond County’s focus must continue to be targeted on raising student achievement. Next year the school system will be charged with implementing the first year of the state’s new standards for math and English/language arts, known as Common Core Georgia Performance Standards.
While school staff and teachers work through the challenges, Roberson has full intentions to be the one leading them.
“Family and friends have helped me tremendously deal with this; my faith was fundamental,” Roberson said. “I have no questions ... that something good will come out of this.”