Superintendent Frank Roberson focused on recovery, return

The cane helps him balance and the prescriptions help with the pain.

In time, the physical therapy will strengthen his muscles and allow him to walk independently again.

But Richmond County schools Superintendent Frank Roberson said the best healer for his mind and body is really none of those things at all.

"What will be my best therapy and medicine in the world is to get back among my students and faculty," Roberson said in a phone interview from his home Wednesday.

It's still unclear when he'll be able to return to leading the 11th-largest school system in the state, although he said it will be "most definitely" sometime this coming school year.

"I'm thinking soon; I'm hoping soon," Roberson said. "As I get better, I'll know better as to how to estimate a specific time. Right now I'm just monitoring my progress, how I feel physically and mentally."

Five months after undergoing emergency brain surgery for a previously undetected condition, Roberson, 55, said he is eager to get back to the work he started in the school system. He is now recovering at his Beech Island home, "making tremendous progress" and receiving physical therapy three times a week.

Although he is walking with a cane, Roberson said he stays busy every day by "keeping up activities here and around the house" and reading.

THE SUPERINTENDENT was hired in August to lead Richmond County schools and fell ill six months later.

It began with severe headaches, and Roberson said he went to the emergency room with his wife Feb. 22, when he felt there was something wrong.

Doctors at Medical College of Georgia Hospital performed emergency surgery to relieve swelling in his brain and diagnosed him with an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM, which is an abnormal clustering of blood vessels in the brain.

When he spoke with doctors, Roberson said he had never heard of such a condition. No one in his family had ever had it, although AVMs are usually present since birth.

SINCE HIS LEAVE, the public has felt his absence and created its own rumors about Roberson's prognosis.

When the deputy superintendent, James Whitson, took over as acting superintendent March 1, many wondered when, if ever, Roberson would return.

Roberson said he didn't pay attention to the speculation and that his family has helped him focus on recovery.

But it was an abrupt transition, because people in the school system were used to seeing Roberson often.

After he was hired, the new superintendent toured every school in the county and sat in on classes and spoke to students. He kept visiting schools regularly after that initial tour.

He laid out an ambitious set of plans, promising to raise the graduation rate and increase test scores.

With Richmond County schools posting the lowest scores in the Augusta metro area on several state test subjects, many saw Roberson's vision as a much-needed change.

WITH THE 2011-12 school year beginning Aug. 8, school board President Alex Howard said his board is looking forward to Roberson's return, but board members want to make sure he comes back when he is ready.

"We're going to stand by Dr. Roberson however long it takes him to come back," Howard said. "We really want him to get better. The last thing we want to do is for him to come back prematurely."

When he does return, Roberson said the first thing he plans to do is hold a staff meeting with central office administrators and principals to talk about goals and direction.

"I hope to come back and get a feeling for things and build my way back up to the way I left off. I'm hoping that will be a quick process," he said.

UNTIL THEN, Roberson said, he will keep up with education issues by following local and national education news and reading the book Waiting for Superman .

"These are interesting times in education," he said. "So the notion of waiting for superman is a reflection on the leadership, both on the school level and district level. Making things happen that are positive for effectively educating children."

Even though he is not yet back on the job, Roberson has not stopped trying to make a difference in young people's lives.

On July 9, he was al speaker at the Northern Georgia Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction annual scholarship event.

When speaking to the crowd of incoming college students, Roberson said he told them they had everything they need within them to succeed.

When Roberson returns to work, he said he plans to encourage his own students in the same way.

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