One veteran and one newcomer to Gainesville city schools praised Superintendent Wanda Creel on Monday night after she announced she would leave the district at the end of her contract in June.
Creel opened the meeting Monday by saying she would leave.
“It has been widely publicized that an announcement would be made this evening regarding my contract and continuation with the Gainesville City School System,” Creel said.
“In order to quieten the distraction from the incredible progress occurring in our district that is focused on children, please allow me to inform you that at the end of my contract on June 30, 2017, I will transition to cheering for the Red Elephants from a distance.”
Priscilla Collins, chief professional services officer, and Chris Griner, chief financial officer, each offered personal thanks to Creel after they made presentations to the board as part of the agenda.
Collins, who said she has been with the district 24 years, said, “It has been my honor” to work with Creel.
“I have grown so much as a leader because of you,” she said.
She praised Creel for “the time and effort you’ve taken to listen.” She said administrators and teachers “told you about gaps that we saw,” and Creel responded.
“It truly has been a team effort,” Collins said.
Griner came to Hall County from Barrow County, where he also worked with Creel.
After dealing with three issues on the agenda, he said it had been “an honor and privilege” working with her.
Griner noted Creel’s practice of relating all programs and issues to students in the school district, and he thanked her for teaching him that.
He said his last six years, working in education, had been the “most rewarding” of his career.
Creel and board members have come under fire from some in the community over their handling of the planned reconstruction of Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. Three construction options were discussed at Monday’s board meeting.
Board members were asked, by email, for comments about and reaction to Creel’s announcement. Brett Mercer, the board vice chair, said, “So much cannot be said because of the nature of this being a personnel issue. But I will say that I am saddened by her departure and the stirring negative publicity that was a cause for this.
“Dr. Creel followed the board’s wishes in some personnel changes early in her tenure that shadowed her throughout her time with GCSS.
“She took information gathered from the board, fellow administrators and teachers and created a strong strategic plan, efforts of which are being realized now. She created ‘One Gainesville’ and promoted it through joint training, in-house leadership workshops, prep-rallies and her A team meetings.
“She brought similar curriculum to all elementary schools in order to shorten the integration that was occurring with the sixth grade class. She created the ninth grade center to help that class’ integration with high school — all with the intention of graduating more students who were either career or college ready.”
Diaz responded Wednesday afternoon, but she declined to talk about “how we got to this point.”
However, she said, “We have most of a school year left under Dr. Creel’s leadership, and I anticipate that we will continue to see great improvements in all areas. When the dust settles, the board will start the superintendent search process.”
In her prepared statement Monday, Diaz concluded by saying, “Dr. Creel has built upon our tradition of excellence to make us stronger than she found us and better able to meet the needs of our students. I truly regret that she is leaving.”