Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
Forty minutes past the called work session's start time, the Valdosta Board of Education filed into the board room of the central office and announced Edward Martin "Marty" Roesch as the newest superintendent of Valdosta City Schools.
Roesch has spent his entire 25-year career in the Valdosta City School System and is currently the assistant superindent of finance for VCS and has held that position since 2008.
He has formerly served as a teacher at West Gordon Elementary School between 1988 and 1994, assistant principal at Newbern Middle School between 1994 and 1997, assistant principal at Valdosta High School from 1997 to 1998, and principal of Valdosta Middle School from 1998 to 2008.
His education includes a college-prep diploma from VHS, a B.S. in middle grades education from Valdosta State, an M.Ed. in educational leadership from Valdosta State, and a Ed.S in educational leadership from Valdosta State University.
Despite Roesch's career with the school system, his appointment was met with much contention and was not unanimous as board members Debra Bell, Annie Fisher and Vanassa Flucas all opposed the motion to grant him the position.
The superintendent's position is open as current superintendent Dr. Bill Cason announced last fall that he was being forced into retirement by a house bill that mandated his resignation.
House Bill 208 contains definitions relative to the Employees' Retirement System of Georgia. It defines a certain term with the purpose of repealing conflicting laws.
"The Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to employment of a retired teacher as a full-time teacher or in other capacities, so as to change the date of automatic repeal," the bill states.
The code section automatically repealed the June 30, 2016 date to June 30, 2013 forcing Cason to retire at the end of the 2013 school year.
The conflict was that Cason has already retired in Georgia once from LaGrange as associate superintendent and is receiving retirement while also working as Valdosta City Schools superintendent.
Cason is also receiving retirement from a system in South Carolina where he served for ten years.
After Cason announced his retirement, the Valdosta Board of Education enlisted the help of the Georgia School Board Association to assist in the superintendent search.
On Jan. 31, the Valdosta Board of Education announced the top three candidates — Dr. Deborah Lynette Demps, Dr. William A. Hunter and Edward Martin Roesch — that had been narrowed down from 30.
Shortly after the announcement of the top contenders, various members of the community began to raise concern about the process through which the board had selected the candidates. In particular, many wanted to know why the board had allegedly dropped a requirement that each candidate had to have a Ph.D. According to board chairman Trey Sherwood, there was never a Ph.D. requirement.
"I don't even know in the past [searches] if that was a preferred qualification," said Sherwood.
Sam Allen, who served as the superintendent of Valdosta City Schools between 1997 and 2010 prior to Dr. Cason, did not have a Ph.D..
While a Ph.D. was never a mandatory qualification, it was listed as a "preferred qualification".
Various members of the community also questioned the number of African-American candidates that were interviewed for the position. 77 percent of the district's students are African-American.
"I simply want the best person for the job and for the children regardless of race," said Sherwood who offered his personal opinion.
Board member Bill Love made available to the Times the open position announcement for the superintendent search. The mandatory qualifications were listed as the following:
- Successful experience as a principal and a classroom teacher in public schools.
- Of good moral character; not convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude.
- Has no immediate family member serving on the Valdosta City Board of Education or employed as an administrator in the school district after July 1, 2009 (as required by Georgia law).
Preferred qualifications were as follows:
- Possession of a Ed.D. or a six-year leadership certificate.
- Have successful experience in the Southeast region of the U.S. as superintendent or alternative leadership position in the Central Office.
- Holds high expectations of students in the areas of academic, discipline and extracurricular involvement.
- Have a proven record of sound fiscal management; is experienced and knowledgeable in budgeting and educational finance.
- Have a successful experience as an educational leader in public schools with special knowledge and expertise in central office administration and a proven track record of staff management and professional development.
- Have a documented history of leadership in community organizations and other community affairs through public speaking and other oral and written communications.
- Practice a team-building approach to educational leadership, committed to fostering cooperative relations between the school district, the board of education, and community leaders and organizations.
- Have a successful experience working in a community with a diverse and multicultural population.
- Have an understanding of and a commitment to the Common Core of Georgia Performance Standards.
There were chuckles, sighs and other sounds of displeasure echoed throughout the proceedings, but in the end, Sherwood felt that he and the board made the best decision.
"Six people felt that [Roesch] was the person qualified for the position," said Sherwood. "Unfortunately, in this position, you have to make tough decisions."