Bill Sampson said the turnout for Tuesday evening's public forum in quest of a new school superintendent in McDuffie County was the best he's seen in a long time.
Mr. Sampson, a consultant with the Georgia School Boards Association, served as the moderator for the forum at the request of McDuffie County school board members.
The forum drew about 45 people from all walks of life, noted BOE Chairwoman Georgia Hobbs.
"I think the turnout was good. I was real happy with all the comments, and I noticed it was a pretty good cross-section of people," she said.
Mr. Sampson said the purpose of the forum was to establish qualities and qualifications of the next superintendent from the perspective of the public. He said the board was seeking the public's opinion on a future superintendent, and the forum was not to express complaints, comments about other issues or ask questions of the board.
"This is about addressing the future," he said. "It's a public forum, not a discussion."
Members of the audience who wished to express their opinion were asked to sign in and allowed three minutes to speak. Five individuals signed up to speak. Because there was still time left after they were finished, the floor was opened for more comments.
Former Thomson High School head football coach and Laura Jones School principal Bruce Blasingame said he feels a superintendent should be proficient in budget management, knowledgeable, forward-looking and active in civic and community activities.
"And they should have a sense of humor, because sometimes they're going to have to laugh at themselves," Mr. Blasingame said.
Comments from several others reiterated the new superintendent should be active in the community. Other comments mentioned good leadership skills, church involvement, a listening ear, someone who would listen to the kids, have a year-by-year contract, a Christian with moral character and have children of their own.
Two people offered differing opinions about the level of education the superintendent should have. Bobby Altry said he felt a doctorate was not necessary, and Alphee Bouffard disagreed.
"I encourage the board to seek excellence, to seek the highest educated person you can. I realize just a degree does not set the precedence for excellence, but we should set the highest standard for our youth. ... And that doesn't necessarily have to be a degree in education," Dr. Bouffard said.
As a school system department head, Transportation Director Butch Blount said he thinks a superintendent should be visible in every department, "not just one who comes around when something is wrong... an over-all superintendent."
Maxwell Elementary Counselor Pam Walker said she didn't realize she was signing up to speak, but she'd take the opportunity when it was given to her.
"We need our community on page with us," she said. "Someone who can bring our school system and our community together like it's been for many, many years. That's all I ask for. If you have that, then all the other qualities will fall into place."
After the meeting, Mr. Sampson said the comments given by the public were "right in line" with what the board members had been saying they were looking for in a superintendent.
"I think it reinforces most of what the board had already discussed. Folks are focused on the same qualities and characteristics as the board," he said.
Mrs. Hobbs encouraged everyone to go to the system's website and participate in an online survey at www.mcduffie.k12.ga.us. She thanked everyone for coming to the forum, even those who didn't speak.
"Just your presence shows how important this is," she said. "I'd like for you to keep an open mind."
Qualities from the forum and the survey will be printed in a brochure that Mr. Sampson said will be presented to the school board on Friday, then immediately posted on the internet. In the next week, Mr. Sampson said the brochure also will be printed and mailed out.
The school board contracted with the GSBA to conduct the search for a new superintendent after current superintendent Mark Petersen turned in his notice of retirement last month. The contract is costing the board $8,000.
Mr. Sampson is the consultant for the project. He said this is the 25th search he has worked on for the GSBA. Mr. Sampson was a high school principal for 24 years, a superintendent for five years and has been a GSBA consultant for six years.