School chief likely to be named by mid month

ALBANY -- Members of the Dougherty County School Board have been advised by legal counsel that the earliest a successor to Superintendent Sally Whatley can be named in March 15.

In a letter dated Thursday, School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman said that he had consulted with Willie Weaver, who the School Board hired to handle the court case filed by The Albany Herald, WALB and WFXL, and Bill Calhoun, who represents the news organizations. Calhoun and Weaver agree on the March 15 date, Coleman wrote.

The news organizations sued the School Board last month after the board named Joshua Murfree, an Albany State University executive, a lone finalist for the position in a ratifying vote on Feb. 3. A Dougherty County Superior Court judge held up the selection process pending a March 1 hearing on whether the board violated the state Open Records Act by failing to identify three finalists for the job.

The news organizations and School Board agreed to a settlement before the court date, with the board agreeing to return to the six candidates it interviewed in late December to identify three of them. All five except Murfree withdrew from consideration before disclosure, which is a provision in the Open Records Act.

While the board failed to identify other finalists, The Albany Herald uncovered last month that one was former Little Rock, Ark., Superintendent Roy G. Brooks. Valya Lee, an assistant school superintendent in the Clayton County school district, was also identified by media as one of the candidates under consideration before she withdrew from consideration.

"You will recall that the settlement agreement provided for the naming of a new superintendent 14 days after the disclosure of any information gathered by any of those individuals under consideration," Coleman wrote. "As you know, all of the top six choose to withdraw from consideration except Dr. Murfree."

Coleman said he, Calhoun and Weaver agreed that the 14 days started March 1 when the board provided notice.

"This should give the board time to consider the terms of employment of Dr. Murfree as well as time for Dr. Murfree to meet the requirements of every employee to be fingerprinted and have a criminal background check," Coleman wrote.