0722DYERAUDHear Merrianne Dyer, interim superintendent of Gainesville city schools, describe her top priorities this summer as the system’s new boss.
Merrianne Dyer entered the Gainesville city school system as a fourth-grader at Enota Elementary School.
Years later, the Atlanta native is unexpectedly running the elementary school, as well as the entire school system.
In the wake of firing Gainesville city schools Superintendent Steven Ballowe on July 3, the Gainesville City Board of Education appointed Dyer interim superintendent Wednesday."This was somewhat of a surprise," Dyer said. "When the final decision was made, it was not something I expected, to be honest."
Dyer, who was serving as principal of Fair Street International Baccalaureate School, said she was notified she would be assuming the position last Tuesday, a day before the board voted on the position and announced it to system teachers and staff crowded in the Gainesville High School cafeteria Wednesday.
School board chairman David Syfan said the board voted 4-0 to appoint Dyer as interim superintendent, with board member Willie Mitchell absent from the meeting. Syfan said the board was thrilled Dyer accepted the challenge.
Will Campbell, former assistant principal at Fair Street, will assume her vacated role as principal.
Syfan said the board chose Dyer because she’s a well-
respected and well-liked principal, and a Gainesville High School graduate herself. In fact, all three of Dyer’s children graduated from Gainesville High School, as well as her husband, Larry Dyer, who the interim superintendent said was her boyfriend while they attended Gainesville Middle School together.
After graduating from Gainesville High, Dyer attended the University of Georgia before finishing her bachelor of science in education degree at Mississippi College. She taught seventh, eighth and ninth grades in Jackson, Miss., in a primarily black school during the days of court-ordered integration. There, she said she coached everything from cheerleading to football.
Dyer went on to earn a master of education degree from North Georgia College & State University, an education specialist degree from the University of Georgia and then a doctor of philosophy degree with a concentration in educational leadership and policy from Georgia State University.
Dyer, a longtime resident of Gainesville, is no stranger to its schools.
She worked as a teacher at Fair Street for 10 years until 1996, when she assumed the assistant principal position at Enota Elementary School. After five years at Enota Elementary, Dyer returned to Fair Street as principal.
The interim superintendent said her top two priorities now are to get the school year started and to get a firm grasp on the 2009 fiscal year budget. Janet Allison, director of finance for Gainesville city schools, said she estimates the school system faces a roughly $5.5 million deficit.
Dyer said the board is leading the school system in analyzing not just this fiscal year’s budget, but upcoming budget years, as well.
"My role right now is to understand (the budget), and to look at the school from an operational point of view to inform (the board) of needs and balance our needs. ... It’s taken longer than people would like ... but we have to do it well now. We’ve got to get the errors resolved. We’ve got to be sure where we stand, so we don’t have another surprise. We need to be as informed as we can as we go forward."
Dyer said she also believes the community is not a divided one, but that on a basic level, everyone wants the same outcome from the fiscal fiasco that left Ballowe jobless.
"In spite of all the conflicts that we’ve seen this summer, underneath it, people are still saying the same things," Dyer said. "Like the Newtown Florist group is saying to us they need for their children to be sure they have those same opportunities that they’ve seen them have. ... And our business community is saying to us they need for us to be responsible and organizationally strong — and those things go together. If you aren’t organizationally strong, you can’t offer opportunities to children."