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During a special called meeting Tuesday night, members of the Grady County Board of Education expressed concerns with the failure of local principals to recruit, hire and retain highly qualified teachers for teaching positions within the county school system.
Following a lengthy closed door session, board member Laura Register offered a motion to accept the superintendent’s personnel recommendations, but as soon as board member Derrick Majors seconded the motion Register expressed her opposition to hiring “several” candidates who are pending certification requirements.
“We are hiring more than we usually do who are not highly qualified. We need to develop a strategy and plan for recruiting highly skilled, new graduates. It’s an important thing to focus on. We need to come up with a strategy and also a strategy to retain teachers. It will make a difference in our system. Having highly qualified teachers will make our system what we need it to be,” board member Register said.
Board Chairman Jeff Worsham said it is not the candidates’ fault. “They applied for a job and were offered a job. It’s not on them. It’s our leadership. They’ve got to get it right and hire people for the right reasons. We need to make sure we get it right,” Chairman Worsham said.
“I have a lot of faith in our leadership and I have confidence it will happen,” Register added.
Grady County school superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard says that the system’s difficulty in recruiting highly qualified teachers is not a problem isolated to Grady County. “We are facing the same problems that school systems across the state are facing,” Dr Gilliard said. To combat the issue this year, first year teachers will receive special training and will be involved in an induction program for new teachers headed up by assistant school superintendent Tilda Brimm.
The superintendent said that fewer college students are pursuing degrees in education and are not interested in becoming educators. “It’s a problem everywhere, not just here,” he said.
Principals are responsible for evaluating candidates, conducting interviews for teaching positions prior to making a hiring recommendation to the school superintendent. The superintendent typically accepts the recommendations of the individual principals and forwards the recommendation up to the board for final approval.
Board member Derrick Majors did not comment on the personnel issue. Board members Teresa Gee Hardy and John White were absent Tuesday night, but Hardy did participate via conference call. She also did not make any comments on the hiring recommendations.
The board voted to accept the personnel recommendations unanimously on a 3-0 vote. Hardy was not permitted to vote over the telephone.
Grady County school superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard noted two changes to the recommendations as presented. Booker Gainor, who was originally recommended for a math teaching position at Washington Middle School was approved for a sixth grade science teaching position at WMS. Also, Misty Kent was originally recommended for a special ed teaching position at Cairo High School, but she was approved as a special ed resource teacher at WMS, instead.
Other personnel approved were: Nikki Johnson – science teacher at Washington Middle School; Courtney Redden – parapro at Shiver Elementary School; Coluntiya Clements – parapro at Southside Elementary School; Machaela Wooden – parapro at Northside Elementary School; Sara Vann – special ed parapro at WMS; and Brooke Cofer – parapro at Northside.
The board also accepted the resignations of the following individuals: Selena Tomlinson – parapro at Southside Elementary School; Petula Gordon – bus driver; Deborah Darsey – bus driver; Lesley Hurst – paraprofessional at Shiver Elementary School; Alonzo Harvin – parapro at Northside Elementary School; Cany Welch – parapro at Eastside Elementary School; Trenise Price – parapro at Northside; and Crystal Keen – bus driver.
The board approved transferring Donta Stephens from special ed parapro to special ed teacher at Washington Middle School and Diane Tucker from teacher to parapro at Northside Elementary School.
The board also approved the pending retirement of Washington Middle School special ed teacher Cheryl Mills, effective Jan. 1, 2020.
In other business Tuesday night, Dr. Gilliard reported that Coastal Plains RESA had contacted him about the possibility of instituting a new program here that has been successful in other systems in east Georgia targeting at-risk and nontraditional students. According to the superintendent, Coastal Plains would lease local facilities for instructional programs four nights a week and would hire two administrators and two to four teachers to work in the program for not more than 10 hours per week. First priority would be given to hire Grady County School System personnel. In exchange, the school system would have to execute a memorandum of understanding and pay Coastal RESA $25,000 over two years, but Coastal RESA would in turn pay $37,000 for use of Grady County facilities. “This is something the high school has indicated an interest in exploring, but not until later in the year. Perhaps we could begin offering classes in January,” Dr. Gilliard said. No action was recommended of the board Tuesday night.