By Christopher Smith
Danny Hayes did not attend Monday night’s Whitfield Board of Education meeting.
“It was kind of an emotional night,” the county schools superintendent said.
During the meeting, school board Chairman Louis Fordham said Hayes plans to retire from the school system on March 31, two months before his three-year contract is set to expire on May 31.
The Daily Citizen reported on Saturday that school board members were unlikely to renew Hayes’ contract. A source close to the situation who asked not to be identified said there was a “difference of opinion ... on the direction of the schools and school system.”
Hayes said in a phone interview after Monday’s meeting “the biggest factor” in retiring early is his wife.
“(Rhonda) followed me around for 30 years,” he said, “and it’s time for her to do something and for me to follow her. We’ve talked about doing this since October.”
Rhonda Hayes, previously an assistant superintendent with Dalton Public Schools, will start as superintendent of Crisp County Schools on March 13. Crisp County is about 75 miles south of Macon.
The source said Friday “there (were) questions about the renewal of Danny Hayes’ contract and the board (was) considering a different direction or new leadership. That’s not without much argument and much debate (between school board members).”
On Monday the source said Assistant Superintendent Judy Gilreath is a “likely candidate” as a temporary superintendent and a “first choice” by board members as a long-term replacement.
“(The school board) will probably make a decision before April,” the source added.
“I’m not sure where that information came from,” Hayes said. “I just appreciate the opportunity the school board gave me.”
Board members Thomas Barton, Tony Stanley and Bill Worley referred questions about Hayes to Fordham.
Asked if board members were planning to not renew Hayes’ contract, Fordham said details about the contract and Hayes’ decision to retire were part of an executive session — a part of the school board meeting legally closed to the public and media to discuss personnel matters, among other things.
Asked about finding a new superintendent, Fordham said he was “not willing to discuss personnel at this time.”
“Finding a replacement will be our next order of business,” Fordham said. “We’re going to talk about a transition plan ... we do plan to recognize his (Hayes’) services to the school system.”
Eric Beavers, county school spokesman, said school board members have no “policy or timeline” for selecting a replacement.
“Several state organizations offer assistance to school boards seeking a superintendent,” Beavers wrote in an email, “such as the Georgia School Boards Association and Georgia School Superintendents Association.”
The Georgia School Superintendents Association provides a database of all superintendents in the state, while the Georgia School Boards Association provides technical assistance to school board members at their request to help advertise open positions and find candidates.
School board members unanimously voted Hayes as superintendent on May 3, 2010. The contract included a $140,000 annual salary and a monthly $600 vehicle stipend. He replaced Katie Brochu, who was superintendent from 2005 to 2010.
Asked what advice he would give to his successor, Hayes said “they should know to depend on their support folks and use them ... Teachers are what make schools successful. The board should always keep investing in the teachers.”
Hayes joined the county school system in 2006 as assistant superintendent of human resources. Before coming to Whitfield County, he was director of human resources for Habersham County Schools in Clarkesville.