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Superintendent Finalists Explain Why They Want To Lead Bibb Schools | News

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Superintendent Finalists Explain Why They Want To Lead Bibb Schools
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     The Bibb County Board of Education met Saturday in Macon with two men who are in the running to become the county's next superintendent.

     They are both from out of state.

     Board members say they spent about one hour interviewing each candidate, James Benfield of Yadkin County Public Schools, N.C. and Romain Dallemand of Rochester Public Schools, Minn.

    Board President Gary Bechtel described the interviews as "conversations" between each candidate and the board, about the candidates' ideas for the district.  Board members say fellow members Susan Sipe and Tommy Barnes were not present for the interviews due to family obligations.

    After the interviews, Benfield, who was joined by his wife Chris, and Dallemand each toured the district separately.  Bechtel says the district invited each candidate and their wives to attend this weekend's visit.  He says Dallemand's wife was unable to attend due to a prior obligation. Each candidate visited three schools, where they talked with principals without board members present.

      James Benfield has been a superintendent in four districts and is currently the head of Yadkin County schools in North Carolina. The district has about 6,000 students in 12 schools.

    Benfield visited Bloomfield Middle School Saturday. He says the challenge of improving Bibb schools attracted him to the job.

"I think we should do whatever it takes to ensure that our students learn what we expect them to learn," Benfield said.

    Benfield says he increased the number of Yadkin schools meeting Adequate Yearly Progress and says in Bibb, he would use long and short term strategies that start in pre-kindergarten classes to provide focused instruction and help more schools meet standards.

"If we do that and we follow up with student achievement regularly and give students many opportunities to excel then we will be successful," Benfield said.

    He says he would also try bring people in Bibb County together, but says he would focus first on student achievement.

"I like people, I'm concerned about people," Benfield said, "but my bottom line is that I expect and I want students to learn, I'm concerned about them and that will be my focus."

      Romain Dallemand is the superintendent in Rochester, Minnesota. The district serves about 16,000 students in 30 schools, from grades K-12.

 Bibb County has more than 25,000 students in 40 schools.

     Dallemand says he wants to lead the Bibb schools because he sees potential, and thinks the community is in the right position to move to the next level. Dallemand toured Ballard-Hudson Middle School Saturday. He says he has a strong history when it comes to school reform.

"I can be a great role model for students," Dallemand said. 

    He says, for him, students, and preparing them for the workforce, come first.

"The focus is on students, preparing students for a multi-ethnic global economy. That's the bottom line," Dallemand said. 

    Dallemand says he would establish a system of "checks and balances" that increases accountability for student achievement. He says he supports instruction with an international focus and believes that using good processes in the district is critical to success. He counts closing an achievement gap in his current district among his accomplishments.

"My focus when it comes to closing the achievement gap is not because I read about the gap in the book, it's because I closed the gap in my very own life," Dallemand said. "I was a student who was in poverty, I was a youngster who also had an achievement gap and here I am today, I did it in my own life."

    School board member Tom Hudson says he's been pleased with each candidate. He says the board asked each candidate Saturday how they feel about Macon, why they want to come to the city, and what their commitment will be to the district. He says they also gave each candidate a chance to ask the board questions.

"We've been highly impressed so far and we want to make the best decision and get the right fit for the students of Bibb County," Hudson said.

    Board president Gary Bechtel says both men are highly qualified. They voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the two as finalists.

     Now they must wait at least 14 days from making that announcement, until November 4th, before voting on who they want to lead the district as the next superintendent. Bechtel says board members plan to meet in a closed session this week to talk more about the candidates

     The board of education has posted resumes, biographies and other background information on the two finalists.

     The board has been without a permanent superintendent since March, when Sharon Patterson left after more than a decade on the job.

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