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Athens News Matters:CCSD is Set to Vote on Superintendent - Some Say the Process Lacked Transparency

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Nicole Jordan
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This Transcript has been edited for clarity

ALEXIA RIDLEY: Since Clarke County School Superintendent Dr Xernona Thomas announced her retirement last November, school officials have largely been quiet during the selection process of a new candidate until announcing Dr Robbie Hooker as their sole finalist on August 8th.

But some are expressing concerns about what they see as a lack of transparency and community involvement during the search.

Here to discuss that concern is Alvin Sheats, President of the Athens branch of the NAACP. Thank you for joining us today.

ALVIN SHEATS: My pleasure.

RIDLEY: I want to start by playing you a part of the remarks made by Board of Education President LaKeisha Gantt at a school board meeting earlier this month.

LAKEISHA GANNT: We in many ways do wish at times that this could have been, there could have been more public aspects of the process and we remain open to hearing any concerns that constituents have.

RIDLEY: Can you address Dr. Gantt's comments?

SHEATS: I really wish that we had had more opportunities to have public input. The communication that we sent to the school board was really a collaboration of other interested parties who were concerned about the review that our school system has been under for quite some time.

SHEATS: And the main thing is that we want to be sure that things are done properly and transparently so that we don't continue to be under the microscope of this accrediting agency. And with the open meetings that the school board failed to have, we're prayerful now that they will do as much as they possibly can to give the public an opportunity to be involved and to be enlightened with Dr. Hooker’s selection.

SHEATS: We know that he's going to be the Superintendent. It's like it's almost too late in the game now to back up. And fine, no disrespect to Dr. Hooker or Dr. Gantt, but now there is a meeting coming up this weekend with Dr. Hooker and the school board.

SHEATS: So I would encourage each everyone who has children or grandchildren, such as I, in the system to come out and be a part of this opportunity to meet Dr. Hooker and possibly you'll have an opportunity to get a few questions. I've asked Dr. Gantt to extend the meeting at least 30 more minutes to give the public an opportunity to speak and ask questions of Dr. Hooker and maybe the board too.

RIDLEY: There is going to be a meet and greet with Dr. Hooker Sunday, so since they are having this meeting, does that adequately address the concerns you've had?

SHEATS: Well, I'm sure it's not going to adequately address the concerns because there's just not enough time for all those concerns to be met with an hour, maybe hour and a half session. But it's a start. And Dr. Hooker is most likely going to be your superintendent, so you can get to know him and let him know you.

RIDLEY: And in your opinion, what do you think the school district should have done to be more transparent and better acknowledge the community during their selection process?

SHEATS: It would have been nice to have had some public meetings back in the summer as they were working up to making their final selection. I think it would have been nice just to let us let the public know that we have a final number where it was three, five or six or seven.

SHEATS: I think it would’ve been been great to say to the public, “we've boiled it down to X number of applicants, and these are our finalists that we're going to review. You know, just keep the public abreast and that helps keep a lot of frustration down when people know that you are actually on the job as you should be.

RIDLEY: Let's focus on Dr. Hooker himself. Do you have concerns specifically about his appointment as the Clarke County School District's Superintendent?

SHEATS: Well, from what I've gathered, Dr. Hooker has done a very, very fine job in previous superintendent positions that he's held, and I'm sure he's going to bring that same expertise and professionalism to Athens-Clarke County.

SHEATS: Our concern, again, is only that we want to make sure that he's vetted properly. We don't want him to come in with a cloud over his head. It's always tough to come in and bring up a system that has had some issues.

SHEATS: And Dr. Thomas has done a marvelous job in her short tenure. But again, we want Dr. Hooker to come in with a clean slate.

RIDLEY: Once again, I do want to thank you for spending some time with me today and discussing this issue.

SHEATS: Well, Alexia, I thank you so much for allowing me to come and be a part of your broadcast.

SHEATS: Alvin Sheats is the branch president of the Athens NAACP. Dr. Hooker’s meet and greet is set for this Sunday, August 28th from 3:00 to 4:00 PM at the CCSD Administrative Offices building on Prince Ave.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
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