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New Superintendent selected

IN BRIEF: The Rockdale County Board of Education voted unanimously to select Rich Autry, the current Chief Academic Officer, as the new superintendent for Rockdale County Public Schools. The board met for about 30 minutes in a called meeting on Monday, with Jim McBrayer joining by phone. Autry starts in his new position July 1.

School board chair Wales Barksdale said in a written statement prepared before Monday's meeting, "After much discussion and consideration of the qualifications for the next superintendent, the Board unanimously decided to appoint Mr. Autry as the next superintendent... Mr. Autry has extensive experience, serving in many different capacities over the last twelve years and brings continuity to the system leadership. As the chief academic officer and internal strategic plan facilitator, he is the most equipped to lead the district using the renewed plan as the blueprint for the next five years. The Board agreed that spending additional money for a search would not result in a more qualified candidate."

The board had set aside about $10,000 to conduct a search, according to RCPS General Counsel Jack Lance. The Georgia School Board Association, the agency which was going to carry out the superintendent search, will refund the deposit for the search, said interim Superintendent Billy Johnson.

"I am honored to be named superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS)," said Autry in the statement. "As a former teacher, principal and central office administrator in RCPS, I am committed to the continued success and positive trajectory of this district. As superintendent, my sole purpose will be to ensure that all students are provided the highest quality educational opportunities necessary to become successful, productive citizens of this community and beyond. I have always been, and still remain proud to be considered part of such an outstanding group of teachers, administrators, and support staff. The tradition of success for RCPS has always been anchored in its people, people who are committed to changing the lives of young people and impacting generations to come. I appreciate the confidence expressed by the Board of Education and pledge my support and service to this community as we all fulfill our collective role in building upon our distinguished past and preparing a bold future."

The board began discussions regarding Autry last week and voted after the called meeting Monday.

Board member Brad Smith said, "As we started into the search process, we realized we already had the replacement in house." He said Autry had made it known he was interested for the job and intended to apply.

Board member Darlene Hotchkiss, who has been through four previous superintendent searches, said "There's been times in the past I thought we needed to look outside. But I felt strongly that there couldn't be a better person for the job."

"Dr. King has put us in a great position to continue a process and a program," she said. "Rich has an understanding of the direction we have been going. He was an integral person involved in our strategic plan. We don't have to get him up to date on where we see the school system going."

There were tears at this morning's meeting, she said. "It's a bittersweet thing to know this is my last superintendent search," said Hotchkiss, who is not running for reelection. "But I couldn’t be happier with who will be in place."

Board member Jean Yonz said, "We chose the best person for the job. The continuity of our system is going to be kept intact... We can get on with the business of educating children."

Autry's starting salary will be about $175,000 with a three-year contract, pending approval by general counsel.

Autry, who became Chief Academic Officer in 2008, first joined RCPS as a teacher in 1993 for a year. He then worked in Butts County before returning to RCPS as principal of Hightower Trail Elementary in 2000. He served as principal for six years before being promoted to Assistant Superintendent for Support Services and then the Office of Teaching and Learning. 

He has a bachelor's degree from East Carolina University and a masters and educational specialist degree in the area of Educational Administration and Supervision from the University of Southern Mississippi where he graduated summa cum laude. His professional memberships include the Georgia School Superintendents Association, Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Gamma Beta Phi Society for outstanding scholastic achievement, as well as both the Georgia and National Association of Elementary School Leaders.

Autry is married to Brandy Autry and has one daughter, Hadyn Elizabeth Autry.

Previous Superintendent Dr. Samuel King left for a position as Superintendent of Norfolk Public Schools in Norfolk, Va. after six years leading RCSP. King's contract with NPS begins July 1.