President is chosen at meeting

File/Staff
The Richmond County Board of Education will hold its committee and regular board meetings Thursday at its office at 864 Broad St. The committee meetings will start at 4 p.m.; the regular board meeting starts at 6 p.m.

The Richmond County school board, featuring several new members and challenged with finding a new superintendent, met Saturday for the first time this year and elected District 8 member Jimmy Atkins as president.

Mr. Atkins was selected after two votes, defeating District 10 Trustee Helen Minchew. District 6 Trustee Jack Padgett Jr. also was nominated but received only two votes during the first round and none during the second round of voting.

In a show of unity after the two voting rounds, the board passed a motion to confirm Mr. Atkins unanimously as board president for 2007-08.

District 5 Trustee Joe Scott also was chosen unanimously as the board's vice president.

Mr. Atkins said he hopes to get the board to adopt a mission statement in which student achievement is paramount.

"It's easy to say, and hard to do," he said.

Mr. Atkins also will preside over the board as it searches for a permanent replacement for Dr. Charles Larke as superintendent.

"I pray for a smooth process," Mr. Atkins said. "This is a job where we've been told there will be a lot of applicants."

Outgoing board President Marion Barnes wished his successor luck.

"Thank you very much, and Lord have mercy on you," Mr. Barnes said with a smile as he shook hands with Mr. Atkins and swapped chairs.

Board committees, whose new members must be assigned, and the board itself, will meet Thursday.

The body will take up several matters, including an update on a teacher morale survey, grant funding and new teacher pay.

Mr. Barnes, who put the latter item on the personnel committee agenda, said new teachers often wind up being paid very little for the first month of work in August - sometimes as little as $800.

"We're trying to see if there's any way to supplement that," Mr. Barnes said.

The personnel committee also will discuss how the board is to evaluate Interim Superintendent James Thompson, who stepped in after the resignation of Dr. Larke last fall.