Gov. Sonny Perdue named an interim school superintendent today to replace Kathy Cox, and local school officials are happy with the choice.
Perdue selected state Board of Education member Brad Bryant to take over when Cox leaves office at the end of the month, serving the remaining six months of her term.
Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said she has met Bryant several times during statewide charter school system meetings and had extensive interaction with the state school board.
“I am pleased it’s someone who is involved in policy-making and is up to speed on where we are in terms of legislative action being developed into policy,” she said. “He is aware of the changes that will occur should Georgia get the ‘Race to the Top’ grant. He’s familiar with the work of the department and our individual roles at the state level.”
Bryant has served as president of the National Association of State Boards of Education. He also served for 12 years as a member of the DeKalb County Board of Education and seven years as the chair. He is a past president of the Georgia School Boards Association and was president of the National School Boards Association Southern Region.
“I haven’t worked with him, but I know a little about his background and think he will be an excellent choice,” said Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield. “It seems like a common sense approach in terms of leadership. He has experience outside of education and knows what’s been going on in Georgia with education, so he can provide consistency.”
Bryant is expected to run as an independent candidate in November’s race for the superintendent position. Cox announced she wouldn’t seek re-election after the filing deadline has passed to run in the July 20 state primary election, leaving the Republican party without the incumbent advantage.
Democrats Beth Farokhi, Joe Martin and Brian Westlake and Republicans John D. Barge and Richard Woods will be on the primary ballot for the post.
Schofield said district superintendents have been wanting an apolitical state superintendent for some time now. Because Bryant will have to run as an independent, Schofield sees the appointment as a positive political move.
Bryant marks the second appointment Perdue has made that could influence the November election. In January, Perdue appointed former state Sen. Brian Kemp as secretary of state, and he is also a candidate for the secretary of state position for the next term.
The appointment could give Bryant an advantage for the election, said Douglas Young, Gainesville State College political science professor.
“My guess is that for a statewide office that a lot of people may not be familiar with, if one has the ‘I’ by his name, voters are more likely to go for the incumbent,” he said.
However, with current trends showing that voters want to oust incumbents, the advantage could backfire, he said.
“Polling data suggests people are angry at politicians in general, although this is overall directed at the Democrats being the party in power in the White House and Congress,” Young said. “In the Republican Party, a lot of outsiders representing the Tea Party have prevailed over more establishment Republican candidates.”
Then again, most of that anger is focused on federal politics, he added.
“I don’t think the state is facing remotely the same level of anger this year, and I’m not aware of controversy about the superintendent position,” he said. “People in the Republican party will probably have a favorable impression that Bryant was appointed, so I think he’ll have an advantage.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report