Frank Roberson’s return to work as Richmond County schools superintendent Dec. 7 marked the latest chapter in a story that was one of the area’s biggest in 2011.
Roberson had been out since February, when he underwent emergency brain surgery for an arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal clustering of blood vessels on the brain. His absence left a void in a school system that failed to meet many of the goals Roberson had set when he was hired in August 2010.
“I think the school system desperately needs its leadership at this point,” school board Chairman Alex Howard said. “(Deputy Superintendent James Whitson) is stretched very thin, and we need to move forward with the school system.”
When his medical leave began, many of Roberson’s plans to reform the district were put on hold. Only one school has incorporated a magnet program this year, although Roberson had pledged to increase the number of magnet students, now about 2,000, to “well over 10,000” within five years.
Roberson also wanted 44 of the district’s 55 schools to meet federal “adequate yearly progress” standards in the 2010-11 academic year, which would have been an increase from the 27 schools that made it one year earlier.
According to results released in November, only 25 schools made the benchmarks, two fewer than last year and 19 below Roberson’s goal. Those benchmarks increased in 2011, making it harder for all schools and districts across Georgia to make AYP.
Roberson is scheduled to work only a couple of hours each day during the transitional period, with his duties mostly consisting of participating in calendar events, such as staff and cabinet meetings. A final evaluation on Roberson’s work readiness by his doctors isn’t expected for several months.