Dr. Frank Roberson will end what has been an unconventional four-year run as the head of the Richmond County school system July 30.
He was hired in 2010 to replace former Superintendent Dana Bedden, but six months later he was forced to take an extended leave after emergency surgery to correct an abnormal clustering of blood vessels on the brain. Roberson recovered over a 16-month period and began to transition back to work life, returning to his job full time in 2012.
However, after a one-year contract extension last year, the Richmond County Board of Education decided March 24 to part ways with him.
In a Q&A with The Augusta Chronicle, Roberson discussed his views on necessary superintendent qualities, his accomplishments and what he feels will be the biggest challenges the school system will face in the coming years.
Q: What are the accomplishments that you made during your time here that you are most proud of?
A: The biggest accomplishment I feel that I’ve made is something I’ll be talking about during our regular board meeting on Tuesday. I’m proud to have played a role in increasing student achievement in our schools over the past few years. I am thrilled to be able to share and produce evidence that shows the increase in student achievement in our schools, such as improving standardized test scores.
I am also proud to have been able to do this noble calling. We must educate everyone in our district. We cannot pick or choose. I took that responsibility very seriously. It drives me. That calling helped speed up my recovery and helped me get back to where I was. Coming back to work after my recovery was one of my greatest accomplishments, personally and professionally, and I give glory to God for all of that.
Q: What are some of the things you wished you had been able to accomplish during your term?
A: I wished I could have accelerated student achievement a little bit more. We are moving in the right direction, and there are elements of progress at work now. But I wish I was able to help create a higher level of student success and celebration.
Q: What are some of the most important educational issues facing the (school board) right now?
A: No. 1 is trying to speed up levels of academic achievement in our schools and increasing our graduation rates. It’s not just an issue restricted to this area. Many school systems nationally are dealing with similar problems. We are also trying to manage operation of a school system working with very limited funds, also not a problem unique to us. We’ve started seeing some progress in the area of school achievement after working closely with administrators and teachers, and we’ve begun working closely with board members to make a budgetary framework for them to approve, which has helped us deal with our finances.
Q: Some Richmond County schools have a negative reputation compared to other nearby school districts. How do you think the school system can improve its image?
A: As I say to our principals and during board meetings, the best public relations initiatives we can have are high-performing schools. If we educate our children well, we’ll be able to make a mark on not just a local level, but also a state and national one. That’s the best public relations move we have available for our organization.
Q: Considering the demographics of Richmond County, do we need a black superintendent? Does race have an impact on how well the superintendent does his or her job in the county school system?
A: I have always thought about that. As far as my notions on race and how it affects this job, I believe that color doesn’t matter. I learned that from working with children. Children don’t care about your color, or your gender or your economic status. They do care about if you care. Children have a way of knowing if you genuinely care about them. That’s the equalizing element that transcends all of that. The only thing that matters is that you have to care for the children. That will allow you to do the job well.
As an offshoot to that, I believe that people whose jobs bring them in closer proximity to children are more important in the school system than those further away from the children. Your job’s significance is based on your proximity to the children. Teachers have the most important role. They are far more important than me or any superintendent.
Q: What is the most important role a superintendent has to play during his day-to-day work life?
A: The superintendent has to make certain the school system is operating at the maximum level, no matter what. They have to make sure they are meeting the needs of the moment. There will be thousands of needs and hands reaching out every day. The superintendent must have the capacity to be accommodating for all of those things to do their job well.
Q: What are the most important qualities for a school superintendent to have?
A: Everything the superintendent does should stem from the goal of providing quality education opportunities to students in Richmond County. The superintendent should be focused on preparing students for not just K-12, but for their lives beyond high school. The learning process does not stop during adolescence, it continues through higher education and into the workforce. The superintendent should make sure their mind is wrapped around that concept and their efforts concentrated on that goal.
At the same time, it’s important for superintendent’s to make sure they’re not just focusing on what’s good for students on the county, state or even national level.