Georgia School Superintendent Kathy Cox announced Monday she will leave her post at the end of the fiscal year to become the founding CEO of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute.
"I will greatly miss my colleagues and friends in Georgia, especially at the Department of Education," Cox said. "But I feel confident that I will be leaving the department and Georgia’s public K-12 system better than I found it. And in this new position, I will have many opportunities to work with leaders across the country, including Georgia, so I will still be able to help Georgia continue making great progress."
The Education Delivery Institute is a nonprofit organization created to help state public education systems effectively implement school reform. The organization will apply some practices developed in the United Kingdom.
Since 2003, Cox developed the Georgia Performance Standards, implemented more rigorous graduation requirements for students and has helped increase the graduation rate by 15 percentage points to 78.9 percent. Cox will take her new position on July 1 and said plans for her involvement with the institute have only been concrete for about a week.
"Sometimes things happen and opportunities fall in your lap. I was committed to running for a third term, and I would have won," Cox said with a laugh during the state board’s public hearing at Lanier Career Academy on Monday night. "It’s not what I had planned, but I’m very excited."
Cox said she plans to take the lessons she’s learned with her.
"We need the best set of experiences from where we truly implemented policy changes — the lessons we learned in rolling out new curriculum and holding people accountable," Cox told The Times on Monday night. "We need to focus on raising graduation rates and how to change the culture of people who are two or three levels away from the classroom to feel responsible for the decisions they make."
She said her biggest goal is to help states set a strategic plan and streamline the transition from K-12 education to college and technical schools.
"None of the work in Georgia is personality driven but data driven," Cox said during the hearing. "As long as we stay focused on the data and what work needs to be continued to move students where they need to go, it means great things for the students in Georgia."
Gov. Sonny Perdue will appoint a new state school superintendent before Cox leaves, but Cox said Monday night that Perdue hasn’t yet made plans.
John Barge, one of the Republican candidates for the job and a former principal of Chestatee High School, said Monday afternoon he hasn’t spoken to Perdue about the possibility of taking the job but is open to the idea.
In the July 20 primary, Cox also would have faced Republican Richard Woods, a teacher from Tifton. Democrats in the race include Beth Farokhi, a Cobb County educator; Joe Martin, former chairman of the Atlanta school board; and Brian Westlake, a Decatur teacher.
"Superintendent Cox has been a passionate advocate for Georgia’s students, committed to improving achievement for every child," Perdue said Monday. "She pushed strongly for a more rigorous curriculum, which is preparing our students to compete on the global stage. While we will miss her here in Georgia, I share her excitement in this new opportunity."
Cox has yet to officially withdraw from the race for state school superintendent. Matt Carrothers, director of media relations for the Secretary of State, said if she withdraws before counties begin printing ballots to mail to absentee voters for the July 20 primary, then her name will not appear on the ballot.
However, if Cox waits to withdraw officially, her name may still show up on Election Day. Local election officials will be required to notify voters of Cox’s withdrawal from the race if she officially withdraws after ballots are printed.