Richmond County Board of Education members picked her as the sole finalist but won’t discuss why they feel she’s the best candidate, citing legal complications.
Board members haven’t even reached an agreement with Pringle about her pay and say they want to interview her again before hiring her to replace Frank Roberson, whose $170,000 contract was not renewed and ends his four-year stay as superintendent Aug. 22.
The only thing certain is that the board announced Pringle would be the only candidate out of 37 applicants the board will consider. As for everything else? No comment.
Pringle, through her assistant, refused a request for a telephone interview last week. After a second request, she sent an e-mail that said: “I am honored to have been selected as a finalist for the position of Superintendent for the Richmond County Schools. Once the Board of Education has taken final action to hire a new superintendent, I will be available to speak to you and community members. Thank you for reaching out.”
Board members have similarly been hesitant to talk, saying hiring laws prevent them from commenting on their choice until the search is concluded.
“We’re not allowed to comment until this whole thing is over,” Chairwoman Venus Cain said. “We’ve been legally advised to not comment yet.”
A picture of what Pringle did in DeKalb County, where she is a region superintendent, can be sketched by looking at news stories and application documents and talking to employees who have worked alongside her.
Pringle 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. Two of the high schools she oversees offer International Baccalaureate programs, and one is a performing arts school. She helps manage a $7.7 million budget and 1,927 employees.
Pringle’s school system has struggled with allegations of corruption, but she has been credited by some with playing a role in its turnaround.
According to a story by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the DeKalb County Board of Education was rocked with allegations of nepotism and corruption in 2012. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools said the school board had “harassed” employees, violated the chain of command and mismanaged finances, blaming a toxic culture.
SACS placed the system on probation and threatened to remove its accreditation if improvement wasn’t shown in a year.
As a region superintendent, Pringle helped lead the charge to save the system’s accreditation status, said Quinn Hudson, the DeKalb County school system’s director of communications.
“She was one of the people spearheading our Strategic Planning Process,” Hudson said. “She managed a great deal of the process. She was in charge of organizing all of our public hearings. Last year, she helped create an advisory group for us of over 50 people, who ranged from teachers, community members and other staff. It was a major undertaking.”
DeKalb County succeeded in removing its probationary status in January.
Pringle has also dealt personally with adversity. When she was 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 and other school officials were cleared of wrongdoing. A request to the DeKalb County district attorney’s office for records in the case was not immediately fulfilled.
According to her superintendent application documents, Pringle has spent 17 years as a principal in elementary, middle and high schools. She also founded a DeKalb County magnet school of her own in August 2009 – Arabian Mountain High School, which had an “environmental and engineering” theme. It won the National Green School Award from the U.S. Department of Education in 2010.
Pringle says her experience in DeKalb could benefit Richmond County. Both systems have similar population demographics and challenges with poverty, even though DeKalb is much larger.
Both school systems also have minority populations well over 50 percent.
Both counties have similar poverty rates, 20.1 percent for Richmond and 18.6 percent for DeKalb, according to the U.S. Census. Both also have high numbers of students receiving reduced-cost meals.
The school systems have a large number of Title I schools: 102 of the 127 schools in DeKalb County and 40 of the 56 schools in Richmond County fall under the classification, which receive extra federal funding.
“The attributes I believe I possess that will ensure success as the Superintendent of Richmond County Schools are my abilities to develop a collective vision, shape culture and climate … and my ability to serve as an articulate spokesperson for the district in diverse situations on behalf of all students,” Pringle said in her application.
DeKalb County Superintendent Michael Thurmond did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.