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Gainesville schools have new boss

Fair Street principal is interim superintendent

POSTED: July 21, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Merrianne Dyer

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Merrianne B. Dyer was named interim superintendent of Gainesville schools with a unanimous school board vote Wednesday.

Dyer has served as principal of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School since 2001, and has more than 25 years of experience in the city school system, according to Kim Davis, a math coach at Fair Street.

David Syfan, chairman of the Gainesville City Board of Education, said the board enthusiastically selected Dyer as the interim superintendent at the called meeting. She will temporarily replace former Gainesville schools Superintendent Steven Ballowe, who the board fired on July 3, until a permanent superintendent is appointed. Syfan has said he expects the nationwide search for a new superintendent to take about one year.

Syfan said as a graduate of Gainesville High School herself, Dyer is entrenched in the city’s public education system. He said all three of her children graduated from the Gainesville school system, as well as her husband, Larry Dyer.

"The red, white and black runs strong in Merrianne’s family," Syfan said. "I feel confident, too, that Dr. Dyer is up to the challenge."

Sammy Smith, a school board member, said Dyer was a well-liked and well-respected principal at Fair Street, and the board feels good about its decision to select her as interim superintendent.

"Dr. Dyer is a product of this system and a cheerleader of this system and a believer in the elements that have been so successful for our students," Smith said.

He said Dyer supports elements of former Superintendent Steven Ballowe’s Gainesville Model, and believes in carrying on the system’s tradition of excellence. Smith also said she has extensive contacts throughout the community, as well as support from diverse sectors of the community.

Syfan said Will Campbell, who served as assistant principal at Fair Street, will serve as the interim principal of the elementary school.

Dyer was absent from the meeting this morning in which the school board announced her new interim position to more than 100 school system employees in the Gainesville High School cafeteria. Syfan said she was attending a prescheduled educational conference.

In a news release Smith issued, Dyer said she is ready to step up to the challenge of filling the shoes of superintendent.

As interim superintendent, Dyer will work with the school board in finalizing a fiscal year 2009 budget by the end of July and in developing a deficit reduction plan to tackle the board’s estimated $5.6 million deficit.

"Many times the most valuable experiences in life come in very unexpected ways," she stated. "The role that I will assume in our school district has the promise of being one of those experiences. ... I look forward to working together to move our school system forward and continue our extraordinary tradition of excellence."

Dyer worked as a teacher at Fair Street for 10 years until 1996, when she assumed the assistant principal position at Enota Elementary School. After five years at Enota Elementary, Dyer returned to Fair Street as principal.

Dyer, a native of Atlanta, earned a master of education degree at North Georgia College & State University, an education specialist degree at the University of Georgia and a doctor of philosophy degree with a concentration in educational leadership and policy from Georgia State University.

Janice C. Young, assistant principal at New Holland Elementary, said Dyer is an excellent choice for the interim superintendent position. "She’s been a teacher. She’s been an assistant principal. She’s been a principal. She’s really earned her elephant stomp."

The Red Elephants are the Gainesville High School mascot.

The room full of city school teachers and administrators erupted in applause when Syfan informed them Dyer is assuming the interim position.

Beth Boykin, a fourth-grade reading teacher who is starting her fifth year in the Gainesville city system, said the board’s decision to announce Dyer’s new position to system workers first made her feel she was valued as a teacher. Boykin said she was nervous about the vacant position and is glad Dyer is now in charge, but it’s the deficit that remains at the top of her list of worries.

"... That affects us in the classroom," she said. "We’re going to do our job regardless of who’s on top. That money really affects us more than who’s in charge. Without those funds, we can’t buy textbooks, new computers or after-school programs. Without those funds, there’s so much we can’t do. We deal with a population where parents can’t provide a lot."



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