The McDuffie County School System will continue under the direction of Superintendent Mark Petersen for a few more years after a recent vote from the school board in his favor. At their regular meeting last Thursday, the vote passed a two-year extension to Dr. Petersen's contract, which was to expire at the end of 2009.
The vote, which was split 4-2-1, took place after the issue was discussed in executive session.
Board Chairman Jerry Randolph, Rick McCorkle, Virginia Bradshaw and Paul Leroy all voted in favor of the extension. Vice Chair Georgia Hobbs and Rev. Ella Mae Samuels voted against, and Rev. Dorothy Hart abstained.
Each of the three members not in favor of the extension said in interviews after the meeting that they had no problem at all with Dr. Petersen's performance as a superintendent.
"Like if it was his last contract, and we were voting for him to stay or to go, I'd have voted for him to stay," Rev. Hart said. "I don't have anything against him. I'd just like to say â€˜no comment.'"
Mrs. Hobbs said she was concerned about approving the multi-year contract so far in advance because there's a chance something could change with time. Even though she didn't like the idea, Mrs. Hobbs admitted that the situation was not unusual. She said other counties have done the same thing.
"Superintendents have gotten real political, and they are kind of effective," the District One representative said. "They know how to broker a contract and they know how to work it. And we're seeing the results of that. ... It's just one of those things that I don't feel like you need to do."
Rev. Samuels expressed a similar opinion.
"It was not an indictment against Dr. Petersen at all," Rev. Samuels said. "I just believe that if a person does a good job, then they gain the confidence of those they work for. And so they don't need an extension on their contract to feel secure."
With both a doctorate and a specialist degree of educational leadership from the University of Georgia, and three years experience as Superintendent of Lanier County Schools, Dr. Petersen became the McDuffie County Schools Superintendent in July, 2004. During his tenure, McDuffie County has been recognized as a Super System for Quality Schools by the Council on Accreditation and School Improvement of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for 2004-05 and 2005-06, has received district accreditation from SACS-CASI, has increased the high school's graduation rate 21.8 points, and has implemented the Renaissance Recognition Program.
"My God, look what he's done for us. He has brought us to another level in our educational system," Mr. Randolph said. "To me, it's a no-brainer to keep him longer."
Mr. Randolph added that it only makes sense for the school system to not make a change because they are in the middle of new construction projects with the new junior high school under construction and the upcoming new Norris Elementary to begin soon. He also pointed out that the school board members will be changing at the end of 2008, with two of the members - Mr. Randolph and Virginia Bradshaw - have terms expiring and two others coming up for re-election.
"So you don't need a new superintendent and four new board members all at the same time," he said.