The three finalists for the superintendent’s job were introduced to the public during the Griffin-Spalding County Schools System’s virtual town hall-style meeting Monday evening.

The three candidates are Dr. George Bickert, a Georgia native who has been the superintendent of the Ruidoso Municipal School District in New Mexico since 2013; Keith Simmons, a Florida native who served as the Griffin High principal from 2010-15 and has since worked as the chief of staff in the Bibb County Schools System in Macon; and Dr. Kathleen Truitt, a Wisconsin native who has worked since May of 2018 as the assistant superintendent of Instruction in the Henry County School System,

As a part of the town hall, four groups — representing the system administrators, the Griffin-Spalding community, classified staff and teachers, respectively — each presented one question (their group’s question) to each of the four candidates.

Candidates were given time limits to respond to each question, while the other candidates were blocked from listening to their peers’ answers.

Listed in alphabetical order are the responses of each candidate to the question posed by the classified staff:

“What are your main goals as Superintendent of Griffin-Spalding County Schools and why do you think (or feel) you are the best (or right) person for the job?”

DR. GEORGE BICKERT: “...the main goal is enhance and improve the educational opportunities, experiences but most importantly the outcomes for all of our students. When I looked, and what information I was able to get for the district, the district having a D rating, the emphasis on that is focused on poverty. All the schools that were 50% or higher at the elementary level are D or F. And so we need to dive down in and get the educational foundation for our students of poverty so that they can be successful. So the No. 1 goal is to make sure our students are reading at grade level by third grade. I think that’s one of the primary academic goals. Our overall goal, again, is to be the absolute best system we can be providing experiences for all of our students. All of our students do not want to go to Harvard. All of our students don’t want to go to college. What do we have for every individual student? If a student wants to come out and get a certificate in culinary arts, they can do so and they can go into the world of work in the culinary field. Again, New Mexico is slightly different. We have welding classes and our students go into the oil patch and get work right out of school. We have students, both of my grandsons in the last two years have graduated high school in Indiana — one went in the Navy, one went in the Air Force. So what is it that each individual student wants? And, coming from a special education standpoint, can we create a system that is individualized and great enough to achieve that individual-ness and success for each student? That would be my goal and my focus. It’s a lofty goal. It’s extremely hard to do, but we can keep getting better at it for all of our students.”

KEITH SIMMONS: “...I think for me, in partnership with the governance team and the staff, my main goals are simply these three pillars: I want to build a distinctive brand, one that attracts the highest level of performance throughout the state and from the southeast region; I want to make sure than we can develop strong leaders in every department in every school, because strong leaders also are used as a recruitment tool and a retention tool; and thirdly, and most importantly, I want to operate excellent schools. Every student in our community deserves to attend an excellent school. Excellent schools are built with strong instructional core, a sense of urgency to ensure that students and their experiences are able to move them forward and that they are just — making sure that they have an internal desire to take care of the children in which they are serving. So those are my main goals. I believe that I am ready and I should be the person selected for this job. I have a genuine understanding of the Griffin-Spalding County School System and community. I have a genuine desire to see the school system and community move forward. I believe that I have the skill set, the experiences and the demonstrated competence to work with this board and staff to make those three things come to fruition.”

DR. KATHLEEN TRUITT: “So I think the first goal would be a little bit on the piggyback of what I said my last question. The first goal would be to listen and to absolutely take in as much information as humanly possible from all stakeholders. What do they see as their hopes and their dreams for what they want Griffin-Spalding Schools to be? So then my job is to take that, gather all of that information, share what I’ve heard with the board. And that’s where we start setting priorities and strategies. I think a good place to start, or a place that I would start looking, is literacy. I mentioned how passionate I am about literacy, because I really see that as a gateway for students. That door is either opened for students who are reading on grade level by the end of third or it slowly starts closing when they are not accessing that on-grade-level reading. And when I looked at elementary schools across the district, I think that would be what I want to address first. Let’s start with our youngest learners and do our level best to make sure that we are on track in third grade and moving forward. It also helps lessen the impact for middle and high schools to have to remediate and intervene if we are already on track and ready to go. So first listen and then set priorities with the board on what we do first. And then obviously my love for literacy it just jumps out there as something I would like to address.”

The entire interview can be viewed at <youtu.be/GuZf0avR7sQ>.

Each candidate answered questions from the administration first, then community and the classified staff before closing with a question from the teachers before the next candidate was called on to answer the same questions.

Those who view the video are encouraged to send feedback or comments to the school board via a link at the end of the video, said GSCS Board Chairman Will Doss.

“If you want to make a comment, there are no questions that are asked (and) it is not a survey of anything,” said Doss, “but if there is a comment that you would like to make all of the board members will read those.”

“This will be open through Wednesday,” he added.

The board hopes to have a superintendent selected by its next board meeting on Tuesday.

“The plan, if it goes as planned, is to have an executive committee meeting Saturday morning,” said Doss. “Then we will negotiate our contract over the weekend and make an announcement Tuesday.”

Doss noted, however, the process could get delayed for any number of reasons throughout the remaining process.