Charles Nagle is preparing to hand over the reins of the Columbia County School System next school year and has full confidence in his successor.
The school board named Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway the lone finalist to replace Nagle after he retires in June 2013. An official hire won’t be made until later in December.
Nagle said Carraway’s communication skills, instructional background and genuine concern for children made her an excellent choice for the top administrative role.
“She has a strong ethical expectation for herself as well as employees,” Nagle said. “I think she displays a strong character in leadership.”
Carraway, a graduate of Harlem High School, has spent all but three years of her professional career with the county’s school system.
Starting as an English and Spanish teacher at Harlem High School, Carraway rose to become both an assistant principal and principal for county schools.
After serving as assistant superintendent of student support for two years, Carraway was promoted in 2007 to her current position.
“She has fine-tuned her skills in training and tried to absorb everything that she possibly could in becoming a leader for this school system,” Nagle said. “She has put herself in a position where no one else coming in would have anywhere near the knowledge of where we are in our school system and our goals for where we’re headed.”
In July, Carraway will inherit a school system with more than 24,000 pupils and 3,000 employees.
Her first goal for the 2013-2014 school year, she said, will be ensuring that two new schools, Evans Elementary and Columbia Middle, have smooth openings.
“As I progress being the new superintendent after that, certainly the focus will be on classrooms and providing teachers with the latest, greatest technological tools to do what they do better,” she said.
With budget cuts plaguing schools across the country, Nagle said the greatest hurdle for Carraway will be financial.
State funding for this school year was cut by $13 million, forcing administrators to increase class sizes and make personnel cuts.
“Her biggest challenge, along with the poor economy, is to continue keeping the morale of the employees high when we’re expecting so much from them,” Nagle said. “It’s a tremendous drain on the employees.”
To combat that, Carraway said she plans to continue finding ways to maximize funding opportunities, such as expanding programming for gifted students and those in academic trouble.
Carraway said having experience in nearly every facet of the school system has prepared her for a leadership role.
Being familiar with different school environments is also a big help, she said.
“Really in every part of our county, I know people, teachers and students,” she said. “I’m 150 percent committed.”