The Columbia County school system plans to unveil a host of portraits depicting former school system superintendents at the new administration building next month.
At the end of next school year, Tommy Price's portrait will join them.
The Columbia County school superintendent, who has served in that role since the 1998-99 term, announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the 2006-07 school year.
"I'm happy for him," said Wayne Bridges, the county's school board chairman. "I know it was a tough decision for him. But I'm happy for him. I think he did it with class and with dignity and I wish him nothing but the best."
Next year, Price will finish his 36th year in education - 34 of those years in Columbia County.
Price's first job in education was a teaching position at a high school in Birmingham, Ala. He said he then taught one year at Wrens High School in Jefferson County. From there, he began his 34 years with the Columbia County school system, first working as a teacher and coach at Harlem High School, winning a baseball state championship his first year there in 1974 and his last year at the school, 1978.
From there, Price said he went to Columbia Middle School for 2 years as an assistant principal and then took over as principal for 2 years. In 1982, he became the system's assistant superintendent for a year and received the title of associate superintendent from 1983 to 1998, when he became superintendent.
Price told board members that it was time for a change.
"I think the timing is good and the system is in good shape," Price said, adding that a recent accreditation praised the system.
But Price has retirement ideas of his own.
"I'm hoping to immediately begin doing a little bit more (tennis) and maybe traveling a little bit more than we've been able to do," Price said.
Price said he plans to hang up his signature bow-tie except for special events.
"I remember one time when I first started wearing (ties), I was kind of mixing them and wore just a regular neck tie and someone came up to me right off the bat and said, 'No. No. No. That isn't you,'" Price said. "And I think that's the last time I wore one."
Price will continue to serve the system in a transitional role during the 2007-08 school year to help train the new superintendent.
Bridges said Wednesday the board was negotiating a retirement contract for Price and has had no formal talks of how to replace him.
The superintendent position, which was an elected position until 1994, is appointed by the board and member Regina Buccafucso said she expects a search committee of community and board members could start the process of searching for a new superintendent no later than the next three or four months.
In other school-related action, the county school board appointed Greenbrier High School band director Tom Smallwood to fill the assistant principal position at Riverside Middle School at Tuesday's school board meeting. The position was vacated when Merrell Garner left on good terms to move out of town.
The board also approved $25,000 in matching health insurance funds to continue the Spanish/foreign language pilot program at Stevens Creek Elementary School. The program has operated for nine years without it being used as a model statewide. Participating schools were required to reapply for the program this year, which school board officials hope is a sign the program will be expanded.
The board also gave tentative approval to its proposed 2006-07 budget.
The budget totals more than $151 million - about $1.7 million more than the expected revenue for the 2006-07 school year. Price told the board he doesn't expect that deficit to be as extreme as it seems.
School officials budgeted only $1 million in revenue from the midterm adjustment - when more state money is granted to school systems based on their first-semester growth. Last year, the school system received $2.4 million as the midterm adjustment.
Among new projected costs for the upcoming year are 101 new positions driven by growth, including more than 60 teachers and nearly 30 paraprofessionals - many because of state mandates to reduce class sizes; a 4 percent pay raise for education employees; eight new buses as part of the system's program to replace older buses; and replacing computer equipment more than five years old.
School board members will likely give the budget final approval at the next meeting, set for 6 p.m. June 27 at their new offices on Hereford Farm Road in Evans.
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