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Ballowe hired for Glynn County schools improvement job

Former Gainesville superintendent to join former colleagues

POSTED: August 6, 2008 5:01 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS /The Times

Former Gainesville school Superintendent Steven Ballowe smiles during a recent rally in his honor at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Ballowe has been hired as executive director of school improvement for the Glynn County School System.

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The vice chairman of the Glynn County Board of Education said Steven Ballowe was the most qualified of seven candidates who applied for the job of executive director of school improvement.

Ballowe, fired as superintendent less than a month ago by the Gainesville school board, will report to work Monday for the system headed by his former assistant, Michael Bull. Ballowe's salary was not immediately available, and he could not be reached for comment.

"I met Dr. Ballowe about a year ago at one of the conventions," said Millard Allen of St. Simons Island, vice chairman of the school board. "Many of the board members had met him before. We had seven applicants and when you measured up the resumes, he was the best choice."

Allen said Ballowe was hired on a unanimous vote of the seven-member board at its meeting Thursday.
Allen said he asked questions about the conditions which led to Ballowe's July 3 firing in Gainesville.

"The explanation was there had been a millage rate decrease in Gainesville and the tax digest fell off," Allen said. "The money didn't come in and the chief financial officer had left, and when you're the CEO, you're the last man standing. That was basically the explanation we got."

Allen said Ballowe's new job would not involve school finances.

"He has several challenges," Allen said. "One is to move us to block scheduling next year in coincidence with our new technical career academy, which is going to open next year."

He said Ballowe would also be involved in the system's re-accreditation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Allen said there was some concern about the number of top hires coming from Gainesville. In addition to Bull and Ballowe, former Gainesville High principal Michael Kemp is an assistant superintendent of schools in Glynn County.

"There was some discussion about that," Allen said. "The people you know and trust are the people you go after. I think the board was pleased that Dr. Ballowe was available."

In a Friday story, The Brunswick News quoted Bull as blaming the Gainesville board of education for the massive deficit racked up during Ballowe's administration.

"The (Gainesville) school board voted to lower its millage rate, which of course lowered the amount of revenue that it brings in," Bull told the newspaper. "After the school system was audited, it was discovered that the system was in debt and the school board wanted to blame someone, so they blamed (Ballowe)."

Bull backed away from his statement to that newspaper on Friday in a telephone interview with The Times.

"I don't know all that went on, and I don't want to blame the board of education in Gainesville," Bull said. "I've got great memories of Gainesville and I love Gainesville. I know Dr. Ballowe, and I don't think he would ever do anything to create a deficit. I think it was beyond his control."

Bull said Ballowe learned of the job and applied for it.

"I guess word travels between St. Simons, Brunswick and Gainesville," Bull said. "Now that Mike Kemp is here with us and we've hired a couple of teachers from Gainesville, he (Ballowe) heard we were looking for an executive director for school improvement and he was certainly the most qualified of the seven applicants."

Bull said it would not be awkward to have his former boss now reporting to him.

The Gainesville school system faces a deficit that now is estimated at around $5.6 million. After an outcry from the public, and citing fiscal irresponsibility, the Gainesville school board voted 3-2 on July 3 to fire Ballowe, seven years after he was hired to lead the system.

Voting in favor of the action were David Syfan, Sammy Smith and Maria Calkins. Voting against Ballowe's firing were Willie Mitchell and Kelvin Simmons.

Syfan, chairman of the Gainesville school board, is out of town on a personal vacation until Monday. He made the initial motion to terminate Ballowe, which was seconded by Smith.

When contacted Friday about Ballowe's hiring by Glynn County schools, Smith said: "I wish him well," referring further questions to Simmons, vice chairman of the school board.

Simmons did not return calls seeking comment Friday evening.

"None of this was an easy issue for any of us," Syfan told a crowd of about 20 people just before the board's July 3 vote. "Because of this, it took some discussion to come to a consensus as to how we proceed."



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