Paulding County School District Superintendent Brian Otott is retiring after 31 years.

The effective date of his retirement will be May 31. Otott started his career teaching 8th grade Georgia Studies at Herschel Jones Middle School, while also working at the After School Program at W.C. Abney Elementary School. Since then, he has worked at 11 Paulding County schools as well as the district office.

“Leaving the place you love is never an easy decision, but I am looking forward to completing this school year and beginning a new phase of life,” Otott wrote. 

The Board of Education hired Otott as interim superintendent in June of 2017, and made him full-time superintendent on Nov. 1, 2017. In September of 2019, the Board voted unanimously to give Otott a three year extension to his contract.

“I am happy for Brian and the entire school board wishes him the best in retirement,” Board Chairman Jeff Fuller said. “I admire the dedication he brought to the job as a life-long educator, the remarkable knowledge he has of this community, and the impressive leadership he has displayed with a calm, measured demeanor through 2020 and into 2021, which has been one of the most challenging stretches in this school district’s history. He has done a terrific job for the Paulding County School District, and he will not be easy to replace. We really have our work cut out for us.”

During Otott’s time as superintendent, the Paulding County School District has grown to be the 12th largest school district in Georgia with approximately 30,000 students and 3,600 employees. According to Fuller, the district’s 2020 graduation rate surpassed 90% for the first time ever under Otott's leadership, when just five years ago it was below 80%. 

However, Otott and the Paulding County School District were under intense scrutiny since COVID-19 came to the state. Otott sent a letter home to parents in late February urging parents, students and staff to wash their hands and practice basic hygiene. At the time, only 19 cases of COVID-19 were in Georgia. 

The school district was the first to reopen for face-to-face learning last fall. Paulding County captured national attention after a photo of maskless students in a crowded hallway went viral. Otott said the students were not in the hallway long enough to spread the coronavirus, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said data are insufficient to precisely define the duration of time that constitutes a prolonged exposure. 

After the photo soared in popularity, a North Paulding High School Principal Gabe Carmona told students there will be consequences for anyone who shares photos and videos to social media. 

“Anything that’s going on social media that is negative in our light without permission — that’s photography, that’s video — there will be consequences for those students or anyone who sends out those pictures,” Carmona said in the recording. “So please be careful and not send out things.”

The student who originally shared the photo of the crowded hallway was suspended, but the suspension was lifted just days later. 

The Board of Education will begin discussing the process of finding a new superintendent when it meets Jan. 26.

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