On Friday, Columbia County School Superintendent Tommy Price got his report card, and school board trustees had given him an A.
"We did give him a satisfactory rating," Board Chairman Wayne Bridges said. "His evaluation went very well and we voted to extend his contract through June 30, 2004. We hope we can continue to provide a quality education in our county, and we think Tommy is doing a good job leading that."
With his trademark bow tie, Price took over the superintendent's office July 1, 1999. Price, 53, received his appointment after former the superintendent Tom Dohrmann resigned. Before that, Price was the associate superintendent for 16 years.
Price first joined Columbia County's school system in 1973 as a coach and teacher at Harlem High School. After receiving his master's degree and education specialist degree, he was promoted to assistant principal at Columbia Junior High School -- now Columbia Middle School - in 1978 and became principal in 1981.
Price said it was his goal to become a high school principal. But in 1983, then-Superintendent Tucker Vaughn offered Price the associate superintendent position during the time the county was experiencing tremendous growth.
As superintendent, Price earns $125,618 annually.
But board members say he's worth it.
"We feel like this is one of the best years we've ever had," said Board Trustee Mildred Blackburn, who has served four years on the board. "We've begun two new schools, there has been good contact with the community and I think the board has worked well under his leadership. Test scores continue to go up, and everything seems to be going well."
One of Price's strengths, she said, has been his ability to work with parents, the newly formed school councils and the relationships he has built with school faculty.
During the lengthy annual evaluation process, board members also had the opportunity to discuss with him areas they felt needed improvement.
"One area I personally wanted to see improved was better utilization of counselors within our schools - to make sure students not only fulfilled academic core requirements, but also to have counselors work with them to see where they are going when they are get out of our school system," said Trustee Lee Muns, who has served on the board for 18 months. "We wanted to reinforce that there is a strategic plan of how we want them to accomplish that task. I think that has to come from the superintendent and his staff."
Muns said Price's performance over the past year "improved greatly."
"I can't say there was any one defining moment, I just started to see him tackle a lot of smaller things that if left unchecked or not dealt with eventually would become an 800-pound gorilla," Muns said.
Trustee Roxanne Whitaker said this is one of the smoothest evaluations she has ever participated in, and she echoed Ms. Blackburn's statement that this year was the best ever for the school system under Price's administration.
"We've had a couple of bumps in the road - the public forum (on elementary curriculum guidelines) that got out of hand," she said. "But he handled it like a champion...The board thinks he is moving us in the right direction."
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