Gainesville school board members are wasting little time turning their attention to what new Chairman Brett Mercer calls their No. 1 priority — hiring a new superintendent.
The board is scheduled to meet in executive session Thursday afternoon to begin looking at applications. The meeting is set for 4 p.m.
Mercer said the school district’s search consultant, King-Cooper and Associates of Thomaston, wants to present the board with the first applicants they have so school officials are not “inundated all at once.”
Mercer said selecting and hiring a replacement for Wanda Creel will be one of the most important decisions the board has to make in the new year.
“That’s our No. 1 priority and the top priority of any school board,” Mercer said Tuesday.
Creel previously announced she would resign when her three-year contract ends June 30. Hired in December 2013, Creel began her stint in Gainesville on July 1, 2014.
Creel came under fire last year when some in the Enota community pushed back against construction plans that would destroy the school’s iconic Smartville garden — an endeavor shouldered by volunteers and donations.
Creel and school board members were criticized for not effectively communicating with the community on the Enota school project. In the wake of the public uproar, Creel said in September she would not return.
Members of the board informally agreed in May to extend Creel’s contract. Then some members apparently changed their minds, according to emails The Times obtained through an open records request.
Mercer said that at the time Creel resigned, the board had made no decision on her contract.
“She decided it would be best if she resigned,” Mercer said.
King-Cooper associate Sandy Addis said he already has a handful of applications ready to show the board and expects to have about a dozen by Thursday.
“This is going to give the board an idea of of what kind of candidates we’re getting,” Addis said. “Dozens of people have called us with questions and have expressed their intention to apply.”
Addis said King-Cooper mailed out vacancy announcements to all school districts in Georgia, the Georgia School Superintendents Association and the Georgia School Boards Association. The deadline for applying is Feb. 3.
As part of the recruitment process, King-Cooper will seek input in the coming weeks from school employees, community stakeholders and board members on what type of superintendent they would like to see hired, Addis said. The cumulative profile of the ideal candidate will help tailor questions that will be asked of candidates during interviews expected to begin in March.
Former school board Chairwoman Delores Diaz said the hope is to have someone under contract by the middle of April.
“That’s according to a proposed timeline that is subject to change,” Diaz said.