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Finalist has 37 years in K-12

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Former Little Rock School District Superintendent Roy G. Brooks -- the unnamed Dougherty County School System finalist -- has 37 years of K-12 experience, according to a resume The Albany Herald acquired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The Herald uncovered that Brooks was a finalist on Thursday. In a phone interview that day, Brooks, the CEO of Brooks Education Consulting in Little Rock, Ark., and CEO of eStem Public Charter Schools Inc., confirmed that he had traveled to Albany to interview for the job.

Brooks, 59, was one of the six candidates the Dougherty County Board of Education interviewed during its search for its next superintendent in late December.

Albany State University executive Joshua Murfree was appointed as the only superintendent finalist for the Dougherty County School System by the Board of Education on Jan. 27. Board member Anita Williams-Brown, who made the motion, was backed by board members Milton Griffin, Velvet Riggins, James Bush and Michael Windom. The Herald uncovered an undisclosed long-time business relationship between Williams-Brown and Murfree on Jan. 27.

On Feb. 3, more than 125 people attended a called board meeting to discuss the school board's superintendent selection process after Windom and Williams-Brown told The Herald that there were two other finalists. After hearing comments mostly in support of continuing the selection process, Williams-Brown, Bush, Griffin and Riggins voted to stay with their appointment of Murfree and the vote ended 4-3, with Windom, Chairman David Maschke and board member Emily Jean McAfee opposing the decision.

On Feb. 4, The Herald, WALB-TV and WFXL-TV sued the school board for violating the Georgia Open Records Law by not releasing information about the other two finalists. A temporary injunction halted the superintendent selection process until a hearing scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday. That hearing will be conducted by an out-of-town judge after Dougherty Superior Court judges were recused Friday in an order signed by Chief Judge Willie Lockette.

While the School Board members who want Murfree named contend he is the best candidate, there has been no way for the public to determine that because the School Board has refused to identify the other finalists.

In an e-mail The Herald acquired through the Georgia Open Records Law from Maschke to McAfee dated Feb. 3, one of the finalists told Maschke that, "... He wants to remain in and will 'actively and aggressively' pursue the position, he has nothing in his personnel or professional life to hide or that he is concerned about coming out."

Prior to this statement, Maschke told McAfee that if the board chooses to continue the superintendent selection process it had halted Jan. 27 to name Murfree that, "We might need to advertise for more applicants because several of the top applicants have notified (GSBA consultant) Mr. (Bill) Sampson to remove their names."

ONE COMPARISON

The uncovering of Brooks' as a finalist last week sheds some comparative light. According to information from Brooks Educational Consulting's Web site, he has been a teacher, assistant principal, executive leadership adviser, area superintendent, superintendent, small business owner and chief executive officer.

Brooks, according to his resume, started teaching in 1973 and continued until 1983, with stints at Seminole County Public Schools in Sanford, Fla.; Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Fla., and Collier County Public Schools in Naples, Fla.

He was an assistant principal at Orange County from 1983 to 1986 and served as a principal for that school system from 1986 to 1998. Brooks then became the area superintendent for Orange County Public Schools from 1998 to June 2004. He oversaw 28 schools with 22,000 students and more than 1,500 employees and a budget of more than $110 million. These schools served "large percentages of poor, disadvantaged students who typically struggle in school and have performed poorly on state assessment tests," he wrote in his April 2004 superintendent application for the Little Rock, Ark., School District.

At the same time, Brooks also oversaw schools in the southern portion of Orange County from 1998 to 2003, covering 35 schools with 34,234 students and more than 2,000 employees and a budget of more than $140 million. "These schools were high to low in socioeconomic status and the district's most diverse in terms of ethnicity," he wrote.

Brooks was the Little Rock School District Superintendent from July 1, 2004, until the Little Rock School Board and Brooks agreed Aug. 21, 2007, to a $635,000 buyout package for Brooks, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Cynthia Howell said. Brooks' role as a consultant to the eStem Public Charter Schools Inc., began in November 2007. The charter school's name stands for Engineering, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Howell reported that Brooks was referred to as the chief executive officer for eStem in January 2008.

Brooks has declined to comment on the situation in Dougherty County. "My whole career has been based on honesty, integrity and being transparent and doing what's best for children and focusing on children and their needs and not the needs of adults," Brooks told The Herald Monday. "I don't feel it would be professional for me to have any comment regarding this situation as long as this process is ongoing."

According to his resume, Brooks earned a bachelor of science from the School of Education at Florida A&M University in 1973. He earned a master of science in administration and supervision from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in 1983, and a doctorate in educational leadership from the school in 1991. He served as a graduate senior adjunct faculty member for Nova from 1983 to 2004.

PSC CERTIFICATION

If Murfree is hired as the Dougherty County School System's new superintendent, he would have to apply for a permit type of certificate with the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

According to his 37-page application he submitted to the school system, Murfree has no K-12 experience, but said he has an L-7 leadership certificate. He earned his bachelor's degree in psychology at Fort Valley State University in 1978, his master's in clinical counseling at Valdosta State in 1980, and his doctorate in counseling psychology from Howard University in 1987.

The 54-year-old Murfree earned an executive leadership training certificate in 2005 from Hampton University and a training and leadership for higher education certificate from National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education in Silver Spring, Md., in 2006.

Georgia Professional Standards Commission Director Gary Walker said Murfree was never issued a certificate in Georgia. Walker speculated that Murfree may have earned his certificate in another state, which The Herald has been unable to verify.

The only qualification that was mandatory for all applicants was that they "possess or be eligible for the L-6 or higher level certification," according to brochure the school system used to announce the superintendent position for the national search. The brochure informed applicants that they could receive eligibility information by calling the Professional Standards Commission's Division of Certification.

"The only contact we had was Feb. 1, 1998," Walker said. "Someone reported (Murfree) took the exceptional child course, that's one of the requirements for certification. There's no Georgia address. There's no school district. There's no certification. It doesn't show any documents. ... Our records never show him getting any kind of certification.

"I don't know where he got the L-7," he added. "He may be eligible for it and just hasn't applied for it."

However, Walker said Murfree doesn't need certification to work at a collegiate environment, such as at Albany State University, where he is an executive.

"You don't have to have a certificate to teach at Albany State, you don't need one to teach at a college," said Walker, who has worked for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission for six years. "The (teaching) certification is for birth through 12th grade students. He would not have had to have a certificate (to be the Dougherty County School System superintendent)."

Walker said several years ago, rules were changed for public school system superintendents in order to accommodate and attract non-traditional leaders, such as retired military commanders. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission provides a permit type of certificate which is valid initially for two years. The initial permit could then be extended for multiple three-year cycles upon completion of specific requirements.

"We had a retired Army general in Cobb and one in Augusta and one in Clayton," Walker said. "We have another one from out of state. It's not uncommon for someone to get his (permit to be a superintendent).

"If the (Dougherty County School) Board wants to hire someone and request a permit, they can," he added. "We're doing it for teachers, too, and with charter schools. Some of that is they can waive some of the certification status."

BEST CANDIDATE

According to the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, as part of its permit section, the fourth criteria reads, "Permits must be requested by an employing school system. As part of the application packet the system must verify by completing the Georgia PSC Employer Assurance Form that the applicant for the Permit is the best qualified applicant available. Should a Permit holder change employing school systems, it is not necessary to issue a new Permit until the expiration of the validity period. However, the gaining school system is responsible for developing a new individual professional development plan."

The Herald then asked Walker about the part in the guideline that notes, "the system must verify ... that the applicant for the Permit is the best qualified applicant available." The Georgia School Boards Association, which conducted the national superintendent search for Dougherty County, ranked Murfree 34th out of 37 applicants.

"That issue has never been brought up to the commission," Walker said. "They've got to verify it (that Murfree's the best applicant)."

Murfree is the chief of staff, executive to the president and athletic director at Albany State. He was hired April 2, 1999, as the department chair of psychology, sociology and social work, a position that had been vacant for about two years.

According to his superintendent application, before coming to ASU, Murfree was a staff psychologist at Northwest Regional Hospital in Rome from March 1988 to July 1998. From May 1988 to August 1998, he was the executive director of The America's Future's Program in Atlanta.

Murfree received a basketball scholarship from Fort Valley State in 1974. He was selected to play in the All-American basketball game in Atlanta in the 1973-74 school year. He was selected to the state all-tournament basketball team in Macon in 1972-73.