City schools superintendent to leave for Georgia
By Diana Matthews, The News Reporter
New position begins July 1
Whiteville City Schools Superintendent Kenny Garland announced Thursday evening that he will retire from WCS and from state government service on July 1.
The Jasper County Charter Schools, headquartered in Monticello, Ga., named Garland that day as their lone finalist in a search for a new superintendent.
The official job offer awaits formal approval of the JCCS board after a state-mandated 14-day period, but board chairman Bill Schilling has already said, “We are delighted to have someone of Mr. Garland’s experience and ability to be our next superintendent. He is committed to Jasper County, has a record of successful leadership and will also bring new ideas to our school system.”
Narrowing the field
Schilling, when reached by email Friday, said he and his fellow board members were impressed with Garland’s organizational abilities and personal qualities.
“We began the search in October and received 36 applicants for the position,” Schilling wrote. “This very strong and deep field was then narrowed to 11, and then again to five (four and an alternate). Ultimately, we chose Mr. Garland as our sole finalist for his experience and success leading a system very similar to our own (number of students, demographics, size of the town, etc.)”
Garland’s 30 years of experience in N.C. public education included years as a classroom teacher, coach, athletic director, high school principal and personnel director in Cherokee County before he took his position as Whiteville’s superintendent in 2014. Schilling cited Garland’s knowledge of school finance and curriculum as factors in the decision.
The JCCS press release listed achievements during Garland’s tenure at WCS, includinga large percentage gain in overall student proficiency compared to all 115 North Carolina school districts, a system graduation rate of 91.3 percent and high measures of college and career readiness for all student population subgroups.
“We think he will be a great fit for our system and our community,” Schilling said, “and that he and his family will enjoy life in Monticello, Georgia.”
Jasper County Schools have been a charter system for three years. Schilling explained that, as in North Carolina, charter systems have some “latitude with curriculum and hiring, among other areas, by replacing some state-mandated rules with system-specific standards of accountability. There are no lotteries for students, or private funding, or anything private about a charter system,” he said; “it’s just the way we structure our public schools here in Jasper County to meet the very diverse needs of our population,” he wrote.
Jasper County High School takes advantage of that flexibility to promote a large and thriving bio-technology program as well as an equally large and successful agricultural program, Schiller said. JCCS is the only public system in the county, with four schools that serve 90-plus percent of the county’s children; as a result they “have to be many things for many people.” Two small private schools account for the other 10 percent of students in the county.
The elected Jasper County Board of Education governs the Jasper County Charter System.
Monticello is located 60 miles southeast of Atlanta. The school system has approximately 2,400 students and 350 staff members serving four schools, according to their website.
Mike Newton, the system’s outgoing superintendent, served 30 years in education in the state of Georgia and the last nine as head of Jasper County Schools. “He informed our Board several years ago that he would remain superintendent until his youngest son graduated from high school, which is happening this year,” said Schilling. “Dr. Newton has done a great job leading this system over the past decade and will be missed.”
Plans for now
“I have truly been blessed during the past five years,” Garland wrote in an email Thursday to WCS employees. “The community of Whiteville has been gracious, hospitable, and friendly to our family. It has been a privilege and honor to serve as Superintendent for the Wolfpack. Together, we have accomplished much to meet the educational, emotional and social needs of our students.”
Coleman Barbour, chair of the Whiteville City School board, said Friday that he and his fellow board members were not taken by surprise by the JCCS announcement. “We knew something was happening. Mr. Garland had already spoken with us individually; he wasn’t hiding anything.”
Although Garland said he was “going to be official” and not speak of the new job as a done deal until after March 14, Barbour said he was “pretty sure” Garland would be confirmed by the Jasper board, and that Whiteville “has lost a very good superintendent.”
The Whiteville school board will begin addressing the search for Garland’s replacement during their next meeting, Monday, March 11. Like other personnel matters, Barbour said, the search will be discussed during closed session. “(School system attorney) Will Callihan will lead us in that regard,” said Barbour, “according to school law, and giving us legal advice about advertising the position and following the proper time frame. We’ll follow the law on that.”