VALDOSTA -- Members of the Lowndes County Board of Education will not be announcing Superintendent Thomas E. Hagler's successor this month as announced the first of the year.

Board Chairman Bill Fuqua said the search committee has not completed conducting on-site interviews with each of the four contenders. The identities of these individuals remain unknown at this time.

Fuqua said earlier that the names will remain confidential to protect their privacy until the list is narrowed further.

"We will be finishing up one (today)," said Fuqua, who serves on the committee along with board members Wendol West and Willie Linahan. "We will be gone (today) and Thursday."

Fuqua said once the final contender has been evaluated, board members will review the information and announce the names of the finalists during the first two weeks of April at either the board's work session on April 2 or the board's regular meeting on April 9.

"This will be anywhere from three (names) to one (name)," Fuqua said.

Fuqua did not say exactly what caused the committee to get behind schedule. Originally, the board planned to announce Hagler's successor in January. However, he did say that the process has been very intense.

"We are interviewing close to 100 people in each of the (contender's) communities," Fuqua said. "This is a process, and we want to make sure we get the very best person we can find."

Earlier, Fuqua said the committee planned to talk to each person's co-workers, friends, etc., in addition to reviewing media coverage of the person and his or her school system.

Fuqua said they are looking at each individual's leadership skills, communication ability, philosophy on education in general, views on extracurricular activities and views on the Lowndes County School System.

"There are lots of variables involved," Fuqua said. "We feel the people we are talking to now have the best chance in meeting those qualifications."

Fuqua said the entire process has been going well, and he is confident the person chosen as the system's superintendent will be the best fit.

"I am pleased with all the candidates," he said.

Hagler announced his intention to retire on June 12, 2001. Immediately, a search committee, consisting of Fuqua, West and Linahan, formed.

In early August, the board conducted two forums -- one for school administrators and employees and one for the general public -- in an effort to solicit suggestions and ideas from the public.

Afterward, the committee began advertising the position on the Internet, in various national publications, and within the various schools systems across the state.

In late August, the school board voted unanimously to hire King Educational Services, a Georgia firm specializing in educational consulting, budgeting and other areas to aid them in their search.

The board received about 35 to 40 applications, from as far away as Turkey and as close as their own back yard, Fuqua said.

The new superintendent will be the second appointed superintendent in Lowndes County.

Hagler is scheduled to retire in June.

To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call 244-3400, ext. 255.

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