WHY THE CHANGE?
On Monday, the Richmond County Board of Education voted to launch a search for a new superintendent after Frank Roberson’s contract expires in August.
Roberson, who was hired in 2010 on a three-year, $170,000 per-year contract, said he will not reapply for the job. After his contract expires in August, the next schools chief will pick up where Roberson left off with efforts to raise student achievement and boost parent engagement.
WHAT LEADERS WANT
The Augusta Chronicle asked four community leaders:
• Cindi Chance, Dean of the Georgia Regents University College of Education
• Dawn Duncan, President of the Richmond County Council of PTAs
• Kam Kyzer, Executive director Boys & Girls Club of the CSRA
• Sue Parr, President of the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce, what they want in the next superintendent.
PRESIDENT OF THE RICHMOND COUNTY COUNCIL OF PTAS
I want the new superintendent to understand the value of PTA in schools, that’s very important.
I believe the majority of them are not sure what our purpose is beyond fundraising. I would like that person to understand us as an association.
It has to be someone who has had success rebuilding, because that’s what is called for here. We don’t need to tear down and start over, but what’s been happening here has been a band-aid.
The basis of what Dr. Roberson was trying to do before he got sick is what we need. The next person has to have a grasp on what he was trying to do.
Overall we need an overhaul. Not to knock it down totally, because there is some good, some not so good and some pretty bad.
The next superintendent has to say ‘I’m coming into a place that needs me,’ who is well qualified to assess and understand exactly what their job is.
With the parents, there has to be involvement. And I think sometimes people mistake blame and responsibility. We have to have a more active role in paying attention to what’s going on. It’s not pointing out what’s wrong or getting in someone’s face and yelling. It’s being there so you can be informed about what your child is doing and saying, what the teacher is doing and saying so you can make the best of it.
We forget that the real intention of the school system is to resolve an issue, it really is.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR BOYS & GIRLS CLUB OF THE CSRA, WHICH SERVES 1,350 RICHMOND COUNTY STUDENTS
At The Boys and Girls Club, 86 percent of the kids we serve are from household incomes less than $25,000 and over 90 percent of them are from single mother homes. What a lot of them struggle with is understanding what resources are available and how to access those resources.
It’s not that they just need more CRCT prep, that doesn’t address it. We take a whole-child approach, and I think that’s what the kids really need.
The last two superintendents that we’ve had have worked very hard in understanding that whole-child need. They’ve tried to engage the community, engage community partners and bring more resources.
I think we would go back 20 years if we don’t work for a visionary who’s going to continue those efforts forward.
When you look at middle school and high school aged kids, the number one thing we find kids need is the ability to see longer range and goal setting.
All the research tells you if you have an opportunity to have real employment during high school you are much more likely to hold a job when you graduate high school.
From a high school perspective, I think we need to work harder on getting real employment opportunities for kids and get the school system working with community partners to work on those soft skills. (Like leadership, work ethic, teamwork, etc.) They have to have basic literacy and math skills, but if you don’t have the soft skills it is very difficult to be successful in the real world.
In the elementary schools, I am a huge advocate of the PE, arts and recess. At the Boys and Girls Club, they come in and do their homework and they’re not quiet and they’re not sitting down. They’re moving around because they haven’t had those outlets during the school day.
I think we have to figure out how to put some of that back in the school day.
The focus on community partnerships, that’s what we really think will ultimately make a difference in the school system.
The last two superintendents have made great strides in those areas, and my biggest hope for the board is that they would work for someone that’s a visionary in that area. Growing, enhancing and looking for ways that they can save and be more efficient by partnering with community partners.
DEAN OF THE GEORGIA REGENTS UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF EDUCATION
A superintendent, if they’re going to be successful, has to be unbelievably flexible. That’s not easy for a superintendent because there are state guidelines and system guidelines and board guidelines and all kinds of other entities that limit flexibility.
But they have to be really flexible in the way they’re thinking about curriculum, the delivery of the curriculum, the way they’re thinking about the future of the school system.
They have to be flexible in the changes in culture around them.
The future of education and the future of any school system is going to be dependent on school leaders, whether they’re principals or superintendents or whatever.
It’s the ability to read the landscape and make changes, and sometimes they’re very difficult to make.
Making those changes are very difficult. Sometimes our curriculum, sometimes our structure outlives it’s usefulness. That leader has to have the fortitude to look at what’s out there, where are the most successful school systems and what we should be learning from our international colleagues.
It’s not just Richmond County and it’s not just Columbia County. The focus we have in this country on a narrow focus only on the things that can be tested is not going to serve us well in the long run.
Right now in many school systems, if it can’t be tested, it’s not important.
If you look at what our employers want, whether it’s the business industry or higher education, they want the work ethic, teamwork, oral communication skills, leadership skills, creativity, a love for learning.
Then you get down to the things that can be tested, the reading and writing and math are number 7, 8, 12 and 13 on the list of what employers want.
This is indicative of what’s happening in our country right now – a focus on test scores that’s almost over-obsessive.
We forget that for those of us who made it, and I am a child of uneducated parents, it was not necessarily only about the academic side. It was about the love of learning the importance of education, the belief that education is the way to get me to where I want to be. I am not going to win the lotto. I’m not going to be the NFL player. I’ve got to work my way there.
All the new leaders, of Richmond County or anywhere else in the world, all the new leaders have to look back and reflect from where they came from to where they are. I hope that’s what we’re looking for.
PRESIDENT OF THE AUGUSTA METRO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
We want to ensure moving forward that we continue to strengthen the relationship that we have with the school system and the business community. We provide a permanent place on our board of directors for the superintendent of the Richmond County School System simply because we feel business and public education needs to be working very closely together.
I also think that what we don’t want to do is to accept that there will be successful students and unsuccessful students. I think we just have to ensure that we have a culture and a mind set throughout the community that we have the highest expectations for our future.
We certainly would like to see a continued implementation of (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) instruction. We feel that is very important as we move forward. We would like the school system to ensure it’s being very proactive in the attraction of students.
There’s no long-term sustainability in declining enrollment. We have to make sure that our school system is very proactive in the attraction of students and that there is a lot of information shared about the school system that articulates all of the wonderful programs and services provided.
As far as preparing students, I think that is continuously changing. What would be considered prepared just a few short years ago is no longer considered being prepared as jobs change, and I think that’s the whole point of an innovative school system – that there’s continuous dialogue between the business community and the school system to ensure students coming out of high school and going on to technical training have the skills necessary for the jobs that are available and that there’s an alignment between the jobs available and the courses being taught.
We were very strong advocates for the development of the (Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School) because that accelerates the process, so students not just coming out of high school have potential certifications that go right into the workforce platform, but they also have a head start on college or technical education. The next superintendent must build a culture of the highest expectations, it really starts with that. Failure is not an option.