March 15, 2013

Board’s choice deserved more effort

Judy Gilreath seems like a fine person, and from all accounts she has been an able assistant superintendent for the past six and a half years and a competent principal at Pleasant Grove Elementary before that.

The Whitfield County Board of Education named Gilreath superintendent Thursday during a special called meeting. She replaces Danny Hayes, who said he will retire March 31. Hayes’ contract was set to expire May 31.

Gilreath may well be the best person to lead Whitfield County Schools into the future. But we would feel more confident if the board had conducted a thorough, nationwide search. They did not.

Whitfield County Schools has a budget of more than $97 million. It has more than 13,000 students and more than 1,500 employees. A declining tax base has hammered its local funding, and both the state and federal government are not likely to provide enough money to make up for those shortfalls.

In short, it’s a very large institution facing a difficult future and will require someone with strong administrative skills and a keen eye for the budget to guide it over the next year.

In addition, Whitfield County Schools, along with Dalton Public Schools and Dalton State College, will play a key role in whether this area moves forward economically. If Dalton and Whitfield County are to thrive and compete in the decades to come, they need well-educated citizens and workers.

Whitfield County Schools needs someone with a strong vision on how to provide the education needed for the future in a financially prudent manner.

Again, Gilreath may possess all of those skills. But it the board had cast a wide net, had brought in several candidates to interview and for the community to compare, we’d feel much more comfortable they had truly chosen the best person for the position.

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