As superintendent finalist Angela Pringle underwent her second interview with the Richmond County Board of Education on Friday, she stressed her commitments to building community ties, transparency and collaborative skills while speaking to the Augusta public for the first time.
A modest crowd of mostly area residents, former school system employees and Mayor-elect Hardie Davis came out to watch Pringle speak and ask questions.
Attendees were allowed to submit questions in writing to board attorney Pete Fletcher, who then selected 10 for the candidate. To prevent interruptions during the session, those arriving after the 1 p.m. start time were not allowed into the boardroom, leading to disgruntlement among some who were locked out.
Pringle opened her interview with a speech detailing what she felt were necessary roles for a superintendent to play in a school system, and the qualities she had to do so.
“First, I will listen to those in this school system. Then I will act to eliminate disparities and achievement gaps,” Pringle said. “Specifically, there are three areas I will work in to ensure I can do this: developing leadership capacity, supporting teachers and students and effectively using resources … I know I will have to hit the ground running, but first I will listen, learn and share.”
Pringle also listed her experience in founding magnet schools, working as a principal at all grade levels and establishing new school concepts as strengths she could use to better the school system.
Board members got the first crack at Pringle through submitted questions read by Georgia Board Association representative Bill Sampson. When asked what she would do during the first 90 days of her term if selected, Pringle said she would “develop a collaborative relationship” with board members, visit all area schools to familiarize herself with their distinct cultures and build ties to community leaders, parent teacher organizations and local media.
“We must develop these relationships,” Pringle said. “It will show me where the critical areas are that we need to work on.”
To a question about the most pressing educational issues facing the school system, Pringle said the attendance rate, graduation rate and upcoming curriculum changes brought about by the Georgia Milestones standards.
“This school system has a tremendous vision … that will require us to practice true leadership, work with our teachers and properly equip everyone for those goals.”
Pringle also said it was important to give teachers more planning time to make adjustments and develop their teaching styles to prepare for the upcoming milestones.
Board member Jimmy Atkins said he was “even more excited” after this interview than he was the first time he met Pringle, and said she was by far the most qualified of the candidates who applied for the position.
“She has 17 years of experience as a principal at all three grade levels. She has established schools and was promoted up through her central office,” Adkins said. “At first, I wanted a candidate with previous experience as a superintendent, but when I read about her past experience I knew she was the most qualified applicant out there.”
After addressing the board’s questions, Pringle talked about some past controversy she experienced.
While principal of Arabia Mountain High School in 2011, she was investigated by the school system after a parent complained that a student was allowed to participate in the school graduation without obtaining the proper number of credits, according to a story by WSB-TV in Atlanta. Pringle presented the transcript of WSB’s follow up story, which said she had been cleared of any wrongdoing.
“I want to show that I am transparent and all above board,” Pringle said. “I wanted to clarify this situation … I call on the media to look into my background. I want to show I’m a person of integrity.”
Sampson then read questions written by audience members to Pringle. She seemed to be in her element as she gave her responses, speaking confidently and clearly to the crowd.
One asked how she would help children at alternative school get there without reliable transportation. She said she would like to see some sort of transportation provided for the students.
“We’ve struggled with that problem at DeKalb County’s Alternative School, and they would use it as an excuse to just quit going,” Pringle said. “We worked with other bus lines to figure out ways to get kids transported to main bus lines, worked to get free bus passes for some students and boosted our online learning capabilities. I would propose to do something similar here.”
Pringle was also asked about how she felt working in DeKalb County’s school system during the time the system was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Pringle detailed what she said was her role in helping the school system regain its footing, developing a “strategic planning process” to begin to recover the school system’s image.
“How do I feel about my time in the system back then?” Pringle said. “I feel good about everything I did then.”
As the session went on many members of the audience agreed with her answers, vocally saying “yes” and “Amen” as she spoke.
After the interview was over, Pringle mingled with the crowd as board members went into executive session to discuss potential contract information. Some took pictures, lined up to ask questions or just shook Pringle’s hand.
Mary Howard, a former teacher who won the RCBOE Teacher of the Year award in 2007, said she liked Pringle’s “focus on instruction and children.”
“She seemed very knowledgeable,” Howard said. “When I heard her talk about tying everything back to student achievement, I thought it was refreshing to hear.”
The board announced it took no action while in executive session, but will meet again Tuesday to make a decision.
Pringle was selected as the finalist for the superintendent position on August 4. She has been working in the DeKalb County school system since 2007, beginning as a high school principal and working her way up to Region 2 superintendent in 2010. She oversees 18,000 students in 23 elementary schools, three middle schools, five high schools and two alternative programs. She currently helps manage a $7.7 million budget and 1,927 employees.
Members of the public still have a few days left to comment on Pringle by calling (706) 724-0558.