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Gainesville school board renews Dyers contract
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Gainesville schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer will remain the district’s head Red Elephant through July 1, 2012.

The Gainesville Board of Education unanimously renewed Dyer’s contract for another two years. Dyer is in the second year of her two-year contract that expires in July.

Gainesville school board Chairman David Syfan said Dyer has governed the system well since she was appointed interim superintendent on July 15, 2008. At the time, the district was facing a roughly $6 million deficit amid public outrage. The board named Dyer, formerly the principal of Fair Street IB World School, permanent superintendent in late October 2008.

"She did an excellent job in turning around the financial condition of the school system while at the same time maintaining student achievement, and those were the two goals set forth by the board," Syfan said. "For that reason, it was an easy decision to renew her contract for two years."

Dyer said she is up for the challenge.

"It’s a task I’m very honored to do," she said.

While the school board extended Dyer’s contract Monday, it honored the service of another district leader who is leaving its ranks.

Current and former colleagues celebrated the dedication of Gainesville school board member Kelvin Simmons, who has served on the board since he was appointed in 1990.

Gainesville City Council members Ruth Bruner and George Wangemann, as well as former school board members Jim Mathis and Frank Harben, praised Simmons for his 19 years of service and for helping board members to remember "it’s always about the children."

Syfan called Simmons "a tireless public servant." Fair Street Principal Will Campbell said Simmons has been an "instrument of inspiration to a lot of people over these 19 years."

"He has a tender heart for all the children who have had disadvantages," Harben said. "He has served this community well. It really is a shame to lose such a valuable asset."

Longtime educator Delores Diaz will assume Simmons’ Ward 4 seat on Jan. 1.

The board also approved a memorandum of understanding with the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement that expresses the system’s intent to partner with the state in its Race to the Top. The Race to the Top is a competitive $4.35 billion grant funded by the federal stimulus act that challenges states to devise a comprehensive education overhaul.

Georgia stands to earn up to $400 million in the national grant competition. Local school districts that partner with the state in its proposal may receive some grant funds if Georgia is selected as a winner.

"We are hopeful we will receive significant resources by participating in this," Syfan said.