Ragsdale, the deputy superintendent of operational support, was selected from among seven candidates to fill the role left by Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, who announced in February he was resigning effective May 31 to move back home to Dallas, Texas.
Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci said Ragsdale will be officially named interim superintendent April 24. His term will last from May 2014 to May 2015. But both the board and Ragsdale said it was “premature” to speculate whether Ragsdale might stay on beyond next year.
“Time will tell,” she said.
Angelucci pointed out that three school board members are up for re-election this year, saying she didn’t want to tie the hands of the next board.
The hiring process
“As the second largest school district in the state of Georgia, Cobb needs leadership with strong experience to ensure that the school district is run efficiently and effectively,” Angelucci said. “Ragsdale provides that continuity to ensure that the children of Cobb County continue to receive an excellent education.”
Ragsdale said he was invited to apply by the Board of Education.
Following the press conference, Angelucci emphasized Ragsdale’s years as second-in-command under two superintendents as a key reason he was chosen for the top job.
“The last three superintendents have trusted him enough to put him in that executive cabinet,” she said. “That weighs heavily when you’re making those kinds of decisions. We wanted a seamless transition. That was really important to us.”
Ragsdale came to Cobb in 2006 when he was hired by then-Superintendent Fred Sanderson as chief information officer. He held the same position at Paulding County Schools during his time there from 1992 to 2006. He feels that experience will help him guide the Cobb school system.
“It’s important mostly for the superintendent to be a leader, not necessarily the one that knows the most about every single department,” Ragsdale said. “That’s why you surround yourself with great people.”
Peppered with questions about the upcoming budget situation, Ragsdale hinted the school district might be able to return to a 180-day school year and eliminate furlough days, though he said it will take time.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable at all to think that all of those cutbacks can be remedied within a single or maybe even two budget years,” Ragsdale said. “It will take us some time to get back as the economy starts to turn around.”
The school board is already working on the budget for next year and will have a budget hearing next Monday at 9 a.m.
With the promotion, Ragsdale’s pay would jump from $135,000 to $185,000. Hinojosa’s base pay was $247,625.
As Cobb’s deputy superintendent of operations, Ragsdale oversaw a staff of about 2,000, including such departments as technology, SPLOST, construction, maintenance and safety.
Ragsdale, 45, was born in Marietta’s Kennestone Hospital and grew up in Paulding County, where he lives with his family, including his 12-year-old daughter. His mother, Brenda Ragsdale, is a retired Paulding County elementary school teacher, and his father, Glen, retired as vice president of an industrial air-conditioning company.
Ragsdale received a Bachelor of Science degree in information systems at Kennesaw State University and is enrolled in Shorter University’s executive MBA program.
Reaction from teacher groups
John Adams, executive director of Educators First, a nonunion professional association representing about 2,000 teachers, the bulk of whom are in Cobb, is a former Cobb police officer, teacher and Cobb School District human resources director. Adams said he’s known Ragsdale for 11 years and worked with him closely for a majority of that time.
“I think he’s a great choice and he did a great job,” Adams said after the announcement. “His comments today made it clear that his top priority is going to be trying to improve classroom working conditions for the teachers. That’s fantastic; he obviously gets it.”
Adams said he isn’t concerned at all that Ragsdale’s background is in operations rather than teaching.
“He’s going to surround himself with people who have taught,” said Adams. “He’s smart enough to surround himself with people that augment him and have a complementary set of skills. There are lots of folks at the central office who are career teacher or principal, central-office folks. He’ll bring a completely different set of strengths.”
Connie Jackson, who recently won another term as president of the Cobb County Association of Educators, another group representing local teachers, agreed Ragsdale is a great hire.
“I think he understands that teachers are critical,” she said. “You can’t have school without teachers. I think he’s very open to learning about things, and we found the same thing working with him in transportation.”