Superintendent finalist to meet public at town-hall events

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

The Henry County Board of Education is set to officially select its next superintendent July 11, and the choice has led to considerable discussion for and against it.

Dr. Timothy Gadson was recommended at last week’s special called meeting by a 4-1 vote. He is the lone finalist for the job, and by law the board must wait 14 days before voting to confirm him.

Three town hall-style events have been scheduled for this weekend to give the public an opportunity to become better acquainted with Gadson. The first forum is Thursday, July 6, at 7:30 p.m. at the district’s central office in McDonough. The next event is Friday, July 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Locust Grove High School. The third meeting is set for Saturday, July 8, at 2 p.m. at Stockbridge High School. The last meeting will be held on Saturday, July 8 from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in the Commons Area at Eagle’s Landing High School.

Josh Hinton was the sole board member voting in opposition to Gadson’s recommendation, and while he did not go into detail at the meeting regarding his concerns he encouraged the community to research the candidate. However, he did not hesitate to go into detail the day after the meeting in a phone interview with the Times.

“I thought [the process] was rushed,” said Hinton, adding that a previous meeting he was unable to attend was supposed to be only for the purpose of reviewing candidates. Instead, the remainder of the board chose at that time to select the candidates they wished to interview.

“If they’d gone home and done their research instead of making the decision in the first meeting, I don’t think they would have picked him,” said Hinton.

A press release from the central office stated that the board met June 14 to review applications and then again June 21 and 23 to interview applicants before the June 27 meeting at which Gadson was recommended.

The current superintendent, Rodney Bowler, announced earlier this year that he intends to retire in September.

According to the release, Gadson has worked for five school districts in five states in the past decade. Most recently, he worked in Austin, Tex., from Oct. 2012 until June 2014. He then spent two years with Atlanta Public Schools and began working with his current employer, Robbinsdale Area Schools in Minnesota, in July of last year. He serves there as superintendent designee and executive director for a district with 12,000 students. According to his resume Henry County would be his first superintendent’s post.

A basic Google search showed that Gadson appeared in June before the school board in Chattanooga, where he is a finalist for the top job, and withdrew his name from consideration in April after being named a finalist for the same position in Birmingham.

“To my count he has applied for four jobs in the past six months,” said Hinton. “He is highly educated and does very well in the interview process, but to me his resume shows instability.”

News reports from Chattanooga and Birmingham reflect concern about his tenure in Atlanta on the heels of the cheating scandal that made national news a few years ago. Gadson came on board after that took place and has been credited by some with helping turn things around in that district. But Hinton said there were plenty of great candidates with nothing like the APS situation anywhere near them.

School board chair Dr. Pam Nutt said at the June 27 meeting that there were 37 applicants for the positions and she felt Gadson has the qualifications to serve the district. The number of in-house candidates was not announced but Hinton said there were several as well as others from neighboring counties. The search was facilitated by the Georgia School Boards Association.

Hinton said he fielded nearly 20 phone calls and emails about the decision in the hours immediately following the meeting. The initial announcements on the school board’s Facebook page garnered some 200 comments on both sides of the issue as of June 29. Other social media outlets were also speaking out in support of Gadson’s selection.

“I just ask the public to do their own independent research and email their representatives [on the school board],” said Hinton. “Social media won’t work. The board members need to get emails directly from citizens.”

As is the custom every summer, the July meeting schedule for the board is slightly different than the rest of the year. The study session and regular meeting will both take place the same day. The study session is at 10 a.m. and the regular meeting is at 7 p.m. The superintendent vote will take place in the evening meeting at the district’s central office in McDonough.