34 apply to be next Newton school superintendent

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education is considering 34 applicants for its next superintendent of schools.

Jim Puckett, board development specialist with the Georgia School Boards Association, reported to the school board Tuesday that 34 applications were submitted for the open position of superintendent of Newton County Schools in February and early March.

Puckett presented the applications and other information to the Newton County Board of Education members during a special called executive session meeting on March 19. It was not open to the public, under state law.

The Citizen previously requested the number of candidates who had applied for the position, since GSBA reported to the board each week how many had applied, but the school board refused to release any information until after the meeting.

"The next step for the board, after reviewing the applications, will be to determine those candidates they wish to interview," said Puckett in a press release from the Newton County School System.

In December, the school board approved GSBA to conduct a search for its next superintendent at a cost of $8,000; the search could be wrapping up by the spring.

"This is the most important decision we make as a school board," said Abigail Coggin, chair of the school board in the press release. "We will review the information very carefully, conduct very thorough interviews, and deliberate long and hard on whom to select to lead our school system. We know our decision will directly impact the future of Newton County Schools and its students."

Coggin added that information gleaned from the community survey taken earlier this year on the superintendent search would most definitely be considered when making a final selection.

"We appreciate members of the community taking the time to provide their input," Coggin said in the release. "It's their school system and they should have a say in who leads it, so we'll review the information from the survey as we conduct interviews and ultimately decide who to hire for this most important position."

Of the 34 applicants for the position, 26 hold doctorates -- 20 education doctorates and 6 doctors of philosophy. Six applicants hold education specialist degrees and the remaining two have masters degrees, according to Puckett.

Six of the 34 applicants are currently sitting school superintendents and six are either deputy, assistant, regional or associate superintendents. Five of the applicants are current principals. Other positions held by applicants include director of exceptional education, executive director of support services, retired teacher, facilitator, consultant, former superintendent, assistant professor, executive consultant, Race to the Top director, chief financial officer, public service faculty, chief human resources officer and supervisor of math.

Twenty-four of the 34 applicants currently reside in Georgia and two are from Alabama. The remaining candidates hail from Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Arkansas, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Virginia.

"We're definitely very pleased to have received such a good response," said Coggin in the press release. "On first glance, there seems to be a very strong field of contenders for the position and that's what we wanted. That is the reason we chose to do a national search. We want the very best person possible leading our school system into the future."

According to Coggin, no dates have been set for interviews as yet.

"We need time to do a thorough review of the applications first," she said in the release. "This is not a decision that needs to be rushed. We will review the applications and conduct our interviews, and when we are ready, we will announce to the community up to three finalists for the position."

The school board previously approved several qualifications that would be required of a candidate:

-- holds or is eligible for a Georgia Leadership Certificate at the L-6 or higher level;

-- experience as a principal;

-- experience as a classroom teacher;

-- of good moral character and not convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude (required by Georgia law); and

-- has no immediate family member serving on the school board or employed as an administrator in the school district after July 2009 (required by Georgia law).

Current NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews plans to retire at the end of the school year, on June 30.