In his first opportunity to appear before about 600 principals and other administrators since being appointed interim superintendent, Chris Ragsdale unveiled his slogan for the coming year: “One Team. One Goal. Student Success.”
The Cobb educators gathered at Kennesaw Mountain High School on Tuesday as part of the leadership kickoff for the new school year, which begins Aug. 4.
The program featured a pre-taped interview with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, in which Ragsdale asked the senator about topics such as leadership. Isakson discussed each topic before introducing a speaker to take the stage and also share thoughts on the issue.
Veteran educator Betty Gray, who was former Gov. Roy Barnes’ teacher at South Cobb High School and who served on the Cobb Board of Education from 1993 to 2008, talked about how students should be the top priority.
State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), chairman of the Senate Education and Youth Committee, addressed leadership.
Retired Dickerson Middle School principal Carole Kell, mother of Cobb Superior Court Judge Tain Kell, spoke of teamwork, and Marietta Daily Journal publisher Otis Brumby touched on community engagement.
“This was the first chance that I had to get in front of all these 600 people and let them know what is going to be different for our school district,” Ragsdale said after the event. “The theme is teamwork, being part of the team, and taking that a step further is customer service, having that laser focus for what’s going on in the classroom.”
Ragsdale told the group there are two types of positions in the district: teachers and those who serve them.
“We have a new vision,” Ragsdale said. “We’re going to be one team with student success as the goal, and we’re starting a new day for the Cobb County School District.”
Gray, who chaired the school board when Ragsdale was the district’s technology chief, said she is pleased to see him in the superintendent’s role.
“I think Chris, No. 1, he’s youthful and his vision is clear,’ she said. “He’s not clouded, and I think he knows from his own educational experience that education is important and it’s essential and therefore it needs to be provided for everybody, for all of our students.”
Gray is optimistic about the future of the school district.
“As I talked to young people there today — I don’t know why I’m saying young people, but when you’re 81 you can call anybody young — I’ve seen so many of these people grow, and I know how they feel about kids. They think the focus is on kids, and that’s as it should be. That’s the focus on the team as outlined by the superintendent, and Johnny Isakson tied all of this together: that it’s a collective kind of enterprise, that public education is too critical for us not to give it our best shot.”
If the test scores from schools in south Cobb are not as high as other parts of the county then the resources need to be brought to bear to help those students improve their performance, said Gray, who lives down the road from Pebblebrook High School.
“Opportunity ought to be available to all regardless of the zip code,” Gray said.
Leadership, said Tippins, who served on the school board with Gray before his election to the Georgia Senate, is all about people.
“You can have ideas and plans and theories, but it’s people that you’re leading, and that’s where the focus in leadership ought to be is on the personal side of it,” Tippins said.
Tippins said he is pleased with what he’s seen from Ragsdale.
“I think he’s trying to build consensus, he’s listening to people,” Tippins said. “He already knew what the status of the school district was because he didn’t have to come from the outside, but I think he’s doing a great job, and his emphasis on building a team and working together with people, listening has an awful lot to do with that, and I think that’s one thing about it. He’s a good listener and he gets a lot of good input from a lot of different people.”
(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Jon Gillooly, July 22, 2014. Read the original MDJ article HERE.)