School chief elect John Barge unveils his new DOE team

 New Georgia school chief John Barge announced his new leadership team today.

New Georgia school chief John Barge announced his new leadership team today.

Meet the new team at the state Department of Education. It is not quite the same as the old team.

Sounds like superintendent-elect John Barge is replacing Kathy Cox’s south metro cabinet with a north Georgia one.  (Cox came to DOE from Peachtree City. Barge has ties to west and north Georgia.)

Several key folks are gone at DOE, largely due to their perceived alliances.

They include Erin Hames, GaDOE chief of staff, Courtney Burnett, coordinator, external affairs, and Buck Hilliard, GaDOE’s liaison to the State Board of Education. Burnett and Hilliard were close to former Superintendent Cox. Hames was Gov. Sonny Perdue’s policy director and only recently moved to DOE. I understand efforts were made to protect Hames, but they did not work and she was asked to resign.

Barge sent out this e-mail today announcing his inner circle:

Below are brief biographies of the new team members:

Chief of Staff – Joel Thornton – Joel is currently the President and CEO  of the International Human Rights Group and has held various positions within the American Center for Law and Justice.  He received his undergraduate degree from Berry College and his law degree from Georgia State University.  Joel has also served as a classroom teacher at  St. Mary’s Catholic School and Model Middle School in Rome, GA.

Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff and State School Superintendent – Bill Gambill (currently at GaDOE and will continue part-time)

General Counsel – Brad Bryant (currently State School Superintendent)

Deputy Superintendent for External Affairs (TBA)

Deputy Superintendent for School Improvement – Avis King – Avis is currently the Director of School Improvement in the Bartow County School System.  She brings experience as a Principal, Assistant Principal, and  Curriculum Director.  Avis has a degree in Education Administration Leadership from Jacksonville State in AL, and several degrees from West Georgia College, including a Specialist Degree in School Counseling, Masters Degree in School Counseling, and Behavior Disorders Degree, as well as an undergraduate degree from Berry College.

Chief Deputy – Michael Buck – Mike is currently the Assistant Superintendent of Rome City Schools, where he oversees school improvement, school safety, transportation, public relations, and a variety of other areas.  He has also held positions as the Title I, Title III, and Pre-K Director of Rome City Schools, as well as being the Principal of Rome High School.  Mike has Ed.D, MED and BSED degrees from the University of Georgia and an Ed.S from Augusta State University.

Reporting to Chief Deputy Michael Buck will be the following positions:

Chief Financial Officer, Scott Austensen (currently at GaDOE)
Chief Information Officer, Bob Swiggum (currently at GaDOE)
Deputy Superintendent for Curriculum & Assessment, TBA
Deputy Superintendent for School Turnaround, TBD
Deputy Superintendent for School Improvement, Avis King

Dr. Martha Reichrath and Clara Keith will both continue to serve on my team in leadership capacities.  I greatly value their leadership and experience and look forward to working with them.

Jennifer Hackemeyer will move to the position of Deputy General Counsel. Her experience will be invaluable to our team.

Dr. Diane Bradford has announced that she will retire effective December 1.  She has been a valuable member of the GaDOE team and I wish her the best in her retirement.

If there are any other changes to the organization we will be certain to let you know.  Thank you for your service and dedication to our children and youth!

Sincerely,

John

– By Maureen Downey, AJC Get Schooled blog

36 comments Add your comment

Mike the Original

November 17th, 2010
5:24 pm

Hate to say I told ya. :-)

Diane Bradford

November 17th, 2010
5:26 pm

Diane Bradford retired. How timely…retire and be replaced at the same time…she saw the writing on the wall. She brought her “abrasive leadership tactics” (Marietta Daily Journal) straight from Cobb County to the DOE. Finally someone was strong enough to put an end to her. Diane, take the CLASS Keys with you.

Mike the Original

November 17th, 2010
5:42 pm

Round 2. Place your bets….

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catlady

November 17th, 2010
6:02 pm

Ms. Downey, which of those “out” just got bumped up a few weeks ago?

catlady

November 17th, 2010
6:06 pm

And, Ms. Downey, any hope that some of the BS inflicted on the schools in the last 6-8 years will be “gone with the wind?” (I am thinking about RTI, scripted programs, learning focused schools, graduation coaches, passing kids on who have failed the CRCT, Class Keys, ad naseum.)

Maureen Downey

November 17th, 2010
6:09 pm

@Catlady, I think Ms. Burnett recently took over for the departing Susan Ely. Not sure if that was a big leap or not.
Maureen

Garry Owen

November 17th, 2010
6:29 pm

1. Good school improvement is driven by good data. 2. Good school improvement is driven by good teachers. 3. Good teachers are driven by a desire to see students learn. 4. Get out of the way and let good teachers teach. 5. Administrators must be instructional supervisors and involved what goes on in the classroom. This means get out of the office and visit the teachers. 6. Teachers appreciate administrators who come into the classroom and work with the teacher and the students.

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Dr. John Trotter

November 17th, 2010
8:32 pm

Been gone most of the afternoon. Looks like I have missed a lot. I’d like to ask Dr. Barge to look into something, but I am too hungry now. As soon as I get some grub in my stomach, I’ll get back on. Looks like a good start so far. Looks like Dr. Barge has hired some folk with practical experience who might rather support and empower classroom educators rather than denigrate them and blame all of ills of public education on them.

sat what?

November 17th, 2010
8:37 pm

What about parent involvement program manager? Will that programming remain, as GA needs a parent involvement framework. It is slow to start, but we did not have much with which to work.

What's best for kids?

November 17th, 2010
9:02 pm

Parent Involvement Program Manager??? Are you KIDDING me?

Dr. John Trotter

November 17th, 2010
9:16 pm

Dr. Barge: Why doesn’t the State set up its own accrediting agency which can dole out “Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval” to the various school systems? This way the State’s agency would be accountable to the people, unlike SACS which is a private organization which is accountable to no one except its own self-perpetuating board of directors. Heck, SACS uses our public school employees to do the so-called “evaluating” anyway. Plus, this can save money for the school systems and, and this money can be used directly for the children.

It is my understanding that each school has to pay SACS $600.00 per year to be accredited. I could be wrong about the exact amount but this is the figure that I hear. This can be easily obtained through an Open Records Request. SACS is subject to this Open Records law because it obtains State monies. The school system itself also pays a hefty fee to SACS. Also, SACS’ written guidelines and so forth have to be purchased. SACS is simply a money-making private organization, regardless if it is called a 501(c)(3). Many so-called “non-profits” are all about the money. Remember the huge scandal with Red Cross a few years back, with the CEO making an exorbitant salary?

You wonder why Mark Elgart hesitates, trips, falters, backs up, etc.? Hey, there is the financial equation for SACS to worry about. If a school system has over 100 schools (like several in the metro area), then this is over $60,000.00 that SACS has to worry about losing if the schools are defrocked of accreditation. Of course, SACS really socks it to a school system when they have to re-gain accreditation! Yeah, SACS wants to get “its” money back!

There is no accountability on SACS. To whom in Georgia does SACS answer? No one. Not ultimately to even the voters. An unelected, unappointed private organization. SACS, in a way, just keeps the State and the school systems hostage. But, the State has permitted this to happen. Tying the HOPE Scholarship to SACS accreditation (or accreditation by the Georgia Accrediting Commission) really abdicates the State’s responsibility to ensure that the various school systems and the various schools are operating ethically and according to a set of standards. These are standards that the Department of Education, under the purview of the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent, should establish. Heck, for years we have already had State Standards, but when the General Assembly tied the HOPE Scholarship to SACS or GAC accreditation, then this power evidently got to Mark Elgart’s head. I don’t have a problem with GAC which has been around since 1903 or 1905 (can’t remember the exact date). I don’t see its Executive Director, Dr. Carvin L. Brown, going around and pontificating and huffing and puffing. But, Pope Elgart has gotten too big for his Alpharetta breaches.

Dr. Barge, why not form a study group to look into the State establishing a Georgia School Accrediting Agency? Just my thoughts. What say ye?

Rachael Kirkland

November 17th, 2010
9:19 pm

I thought Dr. Barge was going to clean house! Looks like he kept about 40% of the old timber around!!! Sounds like he needs to bring in some educators who are or have been in the classroom in the last few years. This sound like more of the same.

V for Vendetta

November 17th, 2010
9:44 pm

All the teachers must be on his next list. He does have another list, right? One with teachers on it? You know, those people who actually EDUCATE? Anyone?

Bueller? Bueller?

td

November 17th, 2010
10:29 pm

@ Mareen ssaid: ” I understand efforts were made to protect Hames, but they did not work and she was asked to resign”

I heard some things too. What did you hear?

td

November 17th, 2010
10:31 pm

Rachael Kirkland

November 17th, 2010
9:19 pm
I thought Dr. Barge was going to clean house! Looks like he kept about 40% of the old timber around!!! Sounds like he needs to bring in some educators who are or have been in the classroom in the last few years. This sound like more of the same.

I wonder how many of the ones he kept will stay (especially the ones that had to take demotions) and if this was just the first steps?

Just Saying

November 17th, 2010
10:46 pm

The “International Human Rights Group” (of which the new Chief of Staff is CEO) has an agenda that belies its generic name. It ain’t Amnesty International.

Bama Bill

November 17th, 2010
10:59 pm

SACS and the leaders and their power need to go ! Look where the School Boards and Systems find themselves ? Just think of Dekalb, Clayton, Cobb, Atlanta,etc etc and SACS is right in the middle of ther messes.

sat what?

November 17th, 2010
11:43 pm

So if a teacher needs “help” from the International Human Rights Group to squash the tyranny of DOE and administrators- how will John Thornton address the issue? In ministry you can have but one master.
The website was quite odd, and how is work for Jesus Christ so secretive it cannot be added to the website? Funnae.

What if

November 18th, 2010
7:35 am

Interesting he kept such a bigot on staff. One worthless degree good ol’ white girl really needed to go. Wonder what she’s got on him?

Maureen Downey

November 18th, 2010
8:22 am

@td, I heard that the state board chair made an appeal on her behalf. I did not work with Erin Hames, but always found her well informed and sharp. I think that Gov. Perdue valued efficient and effective people and she certainly fits that bill. I know that such people can be tough to work with but I always prefer competence over congeniality in the workplace.
Maureen

just asking

November 18th, 2010
8:40 am

Is Kathleen Mathers going to stay on at GOSA?

Maureen Downey

November 18th, 2010
8:56 am

@Just Asking, That is a good question. I have not heard but that would be a decision by Gov-elect Nathan Deal. I would think she would stay on, as I am not sure that Deal has anyone else in mind as education has not been his focus. I did hear from a longtime Democrat in the Legislature that Deal was a hard worker when he was there, that he did not stay in Atlanta and carouse but went home to his law practice and his family every night. And the Dem lawmaker said Deal was reasonable and easygoing, helpful traits given what the state is now facing in terms of the economy, education and transportation. I was happy to hear that from a member of the opposing party.
I would think Deal would let that office stay intact until he figures out his stand and plan on education.
Maureen

What's best for kids?

November 18th, 2010
9:25 am

V,
I agree. He should bring in Willis, even though she ran against him.

Curious to Downey

November 18th, 2010
9:33 am

What exactly does the “Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff and State School Superintendent” do that an admin. assistant can’t do? And what does the special assistant get paid? (according to http://www.open.georgia.gov it was $55,349.24 as of 2009 and that’s PART-TIME)

What if

November 18th, 2010
10:13 am

Generally speaking, it would be refreshing for both the new gov and supt to make appointments based on experience and competence.

ChristieS.

November 18th, 2010
2:18 pm

@Justsayin

What else would you expect from someone who spent a good portion of their professional life working for Pat Robertson’s all-fundy, all-the-time organization?

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fulldawg

November 19th, 2010
10:00 am

I hope these replacements are all a good sign that schools will get what they need instead of what Obama, Perdue, Duncan and Senator Bill Cowsert (from Athens) *think* they all need. I may be wrong but all of the above have never spent a even a year in a classroom as a teacher, yet they consider themselves somewhat as experts on education.

Vickie@UGA

November 19th, 2010
12:48 pm

I have to admit that I am more than a little disappointed that Dr. Barge did not bring in any classroom teachers into leadership positions. His ran his campaign on the idea that policies should be teacher/student friendly. Just how do you do that if you do not have teachers on board? A little check of ‘his team’ may be in order.

@Vickie

November 19th, 2010
2:26 pm

@Vickie@UGA I too can add to a blog from class. Look back at your notes and you will see that most of us agreed we need to give Dr. Barge some time. He will bring the needed reform! He is very pro-teacher! Sorry being loud and rude does not make you right. (the Right side of the room)

Name One

November 20th, 2010
12:03 am

Uh oh, we’re in trouble with the Barge’s Chief of Staff:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/11/state-super-elect-shakes-up-department.html

http://joelthornton.com/2010/03/18/whatever-happened-to-americas-moral-center/

His new chief of staff, Joel Thornton, currently president and CEO of the International Human Rights Group and a former classroom teacher at St. Mary’s Catholic School and Model Middle School in Rome, has his own blog.

The biggest change we have experienced is a loss of our moral center. Our founding fathers understood the moral center that comes from a biblical world view—even the founding fathers who were not Christians understood this value. Our grandparents and our parents understood the value of the Ten Commandments.

Benjamin Franklin summed it up when he said, “I believe in one God, creator of the universe; that He governs it by his providence, that He ought to be worshipped,…As to Jesus of Nazareth,…[I] have some doubts regarding Jesus’ divinity.”

My point is this; Christianity was so prominent in our founding that even those who did not believe felt that there was a great value in the system of Christianity that allowed the governance through democracy in a republic form of government.

[...] reported the other day that new school chief John Barge chose his new leadership team, including chief of staff Joel Thornton, who is now president and CEO of the International Human [...]

Joe

November 20th, 2010
11:32 am

Kathleen Mathers will be gone! She seems to think she is the shadow superintendent. As for Erin Hames….the staff (of whom she was “chief”), are greatly relieved!

samantha

November 21st, 2010
8:45 pm

Kathleen Mathers – and GOSA – what exactly is the point? And how much does that entire staff cost? Talk about redundant. Her experience? A couple years in the classroom? Education programs at a defunct science museum? DOE flacky? We need Michelle Rhee. Fast.