Question: Dr. Trotter, what do you think about the apparent choices of the DeKalb and Cobb School Boards for superintendent? The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting this morning, April 23, 2011, that each school board has whittled their choices down to one, Dr. Lillie Cox in DeKalb and Dr. Sam King in Cobb.
Dr. John Trotter’s Response: I wish Dr. Sam King and Dr. Lillie Cox well. I trust that each will serve with integrity and will not allow their administrative subordinates to undermine their superintendencies by routinely violating the law, especially the Georgia Statute which governs grievances (O.C.G.A. 20-2-989.5 et seq.). This is usually my biggest beef with any superintendent — allowing (or encouraging) the administrative subordinates to routinely and flagrantly violate this law. Many, many problems can be resolved “at the lowest administrative level” (to quote the statute) by simply utilizing this process.
I am sure that from time to time, our position at MACE will be at odds with the positions maintained by the King and Cox administrations. We will try to disagree respectfully; however, when an administration demonstrates to us that it disrespects the law by its egregious and flagrant violation of its provisions, then such unconscionable and illicit action elicits a direct action from MACE. I learned a long time ago that you do not go to court — federal or state — each time the school system violates the law. School systems have scads of lawyers at its disposal — working on taxpayers’ monies — who are willing to tie up any issue in court, ever so quietly and out of the public view. In addition, this is the school system’s element because more than likely, the superintendent of some of his or her colleagues are friends with the judge. As the old adage goes, it is always better to know the judge than to know the law. Ha! No, this is not a level playing field. So, when dealing with a school system’s choice to routinely and flagrantly violate the law, MACE simply hits the streets to embarrass the superintendent and to expose the matter. Of course, in matters of non-renewal, suspension, termination, or grievance hearings, MACE vigorously defends the teacher-members, as the school systems know quite well.
If Dr. King and Dr. Cox are indeed the choices of the Cobb and DeKalb school boards, then I wish them well. I mentioned last week that at lunch one day recently I listed off the top of my head about 75 Georgia administrators whom I felt were “Doing Well” (my “DW List”). (This was by no means an exhaustive list but only a list of those whom I personally know or know of. I am sure that there may be hundreds of others who are “doing well.”) Sometimes people question whether I like any administrators. (I am actually having lunch with three excellent administrators on Sunday. We are all celebrating my father’s 86th birthday. I pretty much judge most administrators by Daniel D. Trotter, Sr.’s standard — competence, integrity, professionalism, respect for others, strong character, and simply being nice. I posted a photo of him on Facebook this week, and his former students and teachers always chime in about how they love and respect my father. My father was a heckuva administrator who had the uncanny ability to establish strong discipline in a school with a reputation that he treated all the students right. The students always seemed to love my father, although, I am sure, at any given time, one or two of “the ring-tailed tooters” might have been mad at him. His teachers adored him, and the parents respected him.) I like administrators who are competent, professional, treat people right, and who have integrity.
Someone asked what I think of Dr. King. I know that he comes from an educational family from South Georgia, Sumter County to be specific. He has been successful at each stop in his career. I remember him as an assistant principal at Oliver Elementary School in Clayton County. He worked with Principal Bill Horton (who ended up as Deputy Superintendent a few years later). King was promoted to principal in the middle of the year. It was evident in the early days that King was a rising star. He knew how to establish discipline in a school (which he did at Forest Park Middle School) and still keep a smile on his face. This is the key in running a public school. Establish strong discipline, maintain personal equanimity and integrity, and keep a smile on your face. He was promoted fairly quickly in Clayton County. Many people believe that Dr. King should have been named superintendent in Clayton County but the quirky school board named Dr. William Chavis. (Naturally I was blamed for this, as I was blamed for most any matter in Clayton County at one point. I remember “begging” those board members NOT to hire Dr. Chavis. True story.) So, at this point, King accepted the offer to be superintendent of Rockdale County. No administrator is perfect, but I think that the Rockdale County school board made a good hire six years ago. (It was a risky hire then because Rockdale County was majority white, as Cobb is now.) Dr. King has been named, I think on two occasions, as Superintendent of the Year by his colleagues in the Georgia School Superintendents Association. This year he was also named Superintendent of the Year by the Georgia School Boards Association. This ain’t chopped liver. King’s been vetted in Georgia and has stood the test of time. Is he perfect? No. None of us are. Do all of “his” employees like him? Probably not. Is he heads and shoulders above the Average Joes or Janes coming down the pike and offered up by the search firms? Yes, most definitely. I presume that Glenn Brock “found” Dr. Sam King. In this case, Glenn found a good one.
I don’t know anything about Dr. Cox except what I have read. I know that she earned her doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Go Tar Heels! My great, great, great, great grandfather, Robert West Alston, was one of the first students at “Chapel Hill College.” His brother, Congressman Willis Alston, graduated from “Chapel Hill College,” as it was called in the early days.) She appears to have the credentials. She has moved around a bit in the Carolina area, getting her professional ticket punched and garnering needed experiences, but I am not sure if any “academic experiences” will prepare anyone with what she might encounter in the DeKalb County School System. The county overall is a lovely county with varied cultural, educational, and fun experiences available for its residents. Emory, Fernbank, Stone Mountain, East Lake Country Club, malls, many arts and crafts shows, nice restaurants, great hospitals, just to a few. I am sure that Dr. Cox will be heartily welcomed and will pleasantly surprise some naysayers with her deft manner in handling controversial situations. After all, she didn’t get to the point of being considered for one of the most plum educational jobs (despite its current controversy) in the country by being as clumsy as Jefthro Bodine. Yes, Hickory is small, but it has a certain urbane feel. It is not what we would consider “country.” There’s a lot of tobacco, banking, furniture, and “Burlington” money in that neck of the woods.
Congratulations to Dr. King and Dr. Cox. I wish both of them the best!