Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oconee Superintendent Finalists Want Conversations with County Government

Same Team, Said One; Share Costs, Said Another

Each of the two finalists for the job of superintendent of Oconee County schools told the approximately 150 persons who turned out to meet and hear the pair respond to citizen questions at North Oconee High School on Tuesday night that he wants to work closely with county government officials if selected.

Interim Superintendent John Jackson said he already is in discussion with county Administrative Officer Alan Theriault and Finance Director Jeff Benko about an administrative building to be shared by the school system and the county and he hopes to move those discussions along if selected.

Banks County Superintendent Chris Erwin, the second finalist, said "we are all in this together" and that the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education can collaborate to improve education for the county.

video

Jackson said there are opportunities for the county and the schools to do joint purchasing of such things as fuel to save costs.

Erwin said it is important for the Board of Commissioners and the Board of Education to work as one team, not two teams "working against each other" or even working separately. He said the two boards need to have "critical conversations" about a variety of things, including zoning, and about expectations for the future of the county.

Erwin and Jackson fielded questions asked by Board of Education Chairman David Weeks that covered a wide range of topics. Weeks said the questions all were submitted by citizens, including one question he said he viewed as a "knock" on the Board.

The questioner wanted to know if the candidates are concerned about the turnover in the superintendent position in the county. Both answered that they are.

Former Superintendent Tom Dohrmann stepped down at the end of last school year under pressure from the Board of Education. Dohrmann was appointed superintendent of the Oconee system only in May of 2005.

The session lasted for just less than an hour and included questions on budget cuts, evaluation of school staff and of teachers, technology needs, and the appeal of the position. Each candidate was asked to talk about his qualifications for the job.

I arrived at the session a few minutes after it started and took a seat at the rear. I’ve uploaded a video recording I made of the session, minus the first question and two in the middle when I was changing the battery in the camera. The video quality is poor, as the clip above indicates, but the audio is adequate.

The full video is on my Vimeo site.

Today’s Athens Banner-Herald also contains coverage of the forum, and the paper’s web site has audio recordings of selections of answers to three of the questions posed by Weeks.

Interested citizens can go to the school system web site to express opinions on the forum and the candidates.

Weeks said the Board plans to make a decision on the next superintendent in February.

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