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Dyer announces 2014 retirement
School board seeking community input on her replacement
merriane dyer
Merrianne Dyer

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer is retiring, but she won’t be leaving anytime soon.

Dyer has announced she will stay with the city system until June 30, 2014, giving it time “to complete the difficult task of finding someone that will be as effective” as her, said City Board of Education member David Syfan, serving as superintendent search chairman.

In a Feb. 1 letter to system “stakeholders” and released by Dyer on Monday morning, Syfan said the school board hopes to identify final candidates for Dyer’s replacement by this fall and have a new superintendent hired by late 2013.

“In this way, Dr. Dyer can also serve in a transitional role during 2014,” Syfan said.

The new superintendent-in-waiting would work with Dyer until she formally steps down in June 2014.

“Even if that person can’t be released from their current contract, that would give us six months to work together and (have) a really healthy succession,” Dyer said.

The school board has set up a survey on its website seeking input from those interested in the hiring process to “identify what you believe are the important characteristics that the new superintendent should have,” Syfan said.

The survey, which has been open to employees, school governance councils and Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce members for the past two weeks, will be open to the public through Friday.

“The school board is sending out the survey to as many stakeholders as (it) can identify and from your responses, we will generate a superintendent profile to guide us,” Syfan’s letter states.

“This survey is one way that the school board will seek your input regarding the selection, and as the process continues, the school board also intends to use other methods to involve the community in helping (it) to make a selection.”

Neither Syfan nor school board Chairwoman Maria Calkins could be reached for comment.

An Atlanta native and Gainesville High School graduate, Dyer has served in public education for 36 years, becoming Gainesville’s superintendent in October 2008.

She had been named interim superintendent in July of that year, taking over for embattled schools chief Steven Ballowe.

Ballowe had been fired earlier that month after it had been discovered the system had an estimated $5.6 million deficit.

Dyer, 61, worked as a teacher at Fair Street School from 1986 until 1996, when she assumed the assistant principal position at Enota Elementary School.

After five years at Enota, Dyer returned to Fair Street as principal, where Syfan said she played a pivotal role in helping the elementary school to gain International Baccalaureate status in 2005.

When asked about the decision to retire, she said simply, “It’s time.”

“I have some other plans. I’ve got two or three other opportunities in the private sector, something different and a little less intense — something a little bit more flexible. I’ll probably work for four or five more years.”

Last May, after accepting a two-year contract, Dyer said she initially had hoped to retire in 2012.

She said she and the board both want to see the new changes in the standards and the accountability system through, and bringing in a new superintendent may not be the best idea for the system at the moment.

“Two years will go by quickly and I’m glad I have two years,” Dyer said at the time. “I can see the system through the changes that are going to be coming.”

Even though her pending departure shouldn’t come as a shock to the school system, it still was sad news for board members.

Sammy Smith, who has known Dyer since 1962, said “stabilization” was the main priority when Dyer became the system’s chief educator.

However, “once the system and dynamics of the system became stabilized, she moved full force ahead in terms of academic excellence, infrastructure and community,” he said.

Willie Mitchell, who has served on the school board since 1990, said he believes Dyer “has taken us to another level.”

“She’s been a great friend and a great visionary. I hate to see her go,” he said. “She will be missed. Merrianne’s a Red Elephant to the heart.”

And Delores Diaz said she believes Dyer “was the perfect person” for the job.

“She helped bring us out of deficit and with all the changes going on in education now, she’s been on the forefront of that and helped the (system) take the lead in many of the changes,” Diaz said.

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