With school starting Aug. 13, the district is coming down to the wire to make these last-minute hires in order to have qualified administrators at every one of its schools for the upcoming school year. This past school year, Cobb had 24 principals retire, resign or be reassigned within the district, and the school board is tasked with filling those before mid-August.
The four openings are at Lost Mountain and Lindley 6th Grade middle schools and Belmont Hills and Chalker elementary schools.
Cobb Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said the number of vacancies is normal.
“It’s less than what I had in Dallas or other districts,” he said. “We’ve always had about the same number, according to my staff.”
With the district having a number of experienced administrators running the schools while they interview principal candidates, Hinojosa said he isn’t worried about the timeline.
“We have a strong group of interims, and one of the things about the process that we’re doing, it’s much more open and transparent,” he said. “We let people apply for specific schools. It takes more time, but I think it’s worth it in the long-run.”
Hinojosa said he’d rather not have a principal in place the first few days of school than hire the wrong person.
Hinojosa said he has used his hiring process, which he referred to as the Request for Principal Report when he first introduced it last November, for nearly a decade in other districts where he worked. It involves a roughly 60-day process that allows a selection committee consisting of teachers, area assistant superintendents, school secretaries, parents and a school counselor and students, when appropriate, to help pick who will lead their schools.
In the past, anyone interested in becoming a principal in Cobb put their name in a pool and would be placed at any school in the county. This process allows candidates to apply for specific principal positions.
The candidate chosen by the selection committee will be picked by a consensus, not by a vote, and the final candidate would then meet with Hinojosa and deputy superintendent Dr. Cheryl Hungerford for consideration.
Human Resources Director Dr. Michael Shanahan said the new process is helpful to him and his staff. He started with the district shortly after Hinojosa began implementing it.
“It kind of puts the load in the right place because my team clears the applications and gets them ready for the interview teams,” he said. “It’s hands-down a very effective process, and I’ve seen it involve the right people, community, district staff, school staff.”
Kell Principal Trudie Donovan retired after 34 years with the district and six at Kell for allegedly not contacting the Department of Family and Children Services within 24 hours of hearing suspicions that a teacher abused a student.
Lost Mountain Middle Principal Dr. Robert Downs was reassigned to principal at Pope High. Lindley 6th Grade Academy Principal Landon Brown is being reassigned, but Shanahan could not say where on Wednesday.
Belmont Hills Principal Terry Floyd was reassigned to be the district’s new director of intervention and support, curriculum, instruction and assessment. Chalker Elementary Principal JoAnn Sappington retired.
Hinojosa declined to release the names of the applicants or disclose any information about their previous experience but said they are “great candidates.”
“I’ve never (released candidate names) in my 18 years as superintendent,” he said, adding that releasing the name before the vote could embarrass a candidate if he or she wasn’t approved by the board.
Tonight, the board will also consider approving Hinojosa’s recommendation for Kell High principal, along with an Area 1 Assistant Superintendent vacancy, which was formerly held by Robert Benson who recently accepted a superintendent’s job in Virginia, and a director of audit services. The former audit services director, Mima Carmichael, is retiring after 23 years with the district.