Ryan Gravitt, who has been named principal at Dougherty Comprehensive High School, met Saturday with the public at a meeting that attracted about 50 people to the East Oglethorpe Boulevard police center. (July 27, 2013)
ALBANY, Ga. -- A crowd of around 50, including commissioners and school board members, turned out Saturday to meet Ryan Gravitt, new 2013 Dougherty County High School principal, and speak with interim school system superintendent, Butch Mosely.
Gravitt, formerly the principal of Tift County High School and a Tift County middle school, started the East Albany Town Hall meeting with basic introductions and assurances of his confidence in bringing the 50-year-old school up to state and community standards in academics and attendance.
He responded to a question concerning rumors of a suspension from his Tift County position because of alleged "racist actions." The allegation was strongly denied by both Gravitt and Mosely.
"The (Tift County) superintendent came in on a Wednesday and said he wanted to go in a 'different direction,'" Gravitt said. "That's all he gave me."
Gravitt said he finished the last few months of the 2012 school year with the title of principal and was paid for it. He maintained that he has never been suspended or fired from any position, given a written reprimand or a non-satisfactory report, and that his records are open for all to see.
"The test scores speak for themselves," Gravitt said.
Gravitt said that although he was originally to be transferred to another Tift school as principal, the plan was found to be "not possible."
Mosely said that before giving Gravitt his endorsement, he spoke with the Tift County sheriff about any legal charges or allegations, subpoenaed Gravitt's work records, and had a conversation with the Tift County School Board chairman, who said the allegations "absolutely untrue."
"I would be an absolute idiot to bring somebody here in a school district some 87 percent African-American with a label of being a racist," Mosely said. "Now think about that. There's an attempt by somebody in Tift County to ruin this man. All the allegations are false."
Gravitt said he wants to make Dougherty High a school students will want to attend.
"We've got to make it so that students want to attend Dougherty County High School," Gravitt declared. "We're going to have a brand new building in a year and a half or two. It's going to be fantastic. Between now and then we're going to build a culture with our students so they will go through the day to day process and learn."
In discussing his plans for Dougherty High, Gravitt told the group that running a school was "easy" and proceeded to outline his methods toward that end. According to Gravitt, he will surround himself with competent experts in a state-approved curriculum and in specific academic subjects, and establish appropriate expectations for teachers, administrators and students.
"Everyone will know exactly what their roles are," Gravitt said. "Some teachers are experts in content, but not necessarily in delivery. We're going to fix that. We've got all these other experts, including about 13 new teachers, who can teach them how to teach, if necessary."
Gravitt said the ninth-grade academy would be set up "a little differently" in 2013, isolating those students in their own hallway, except for participation in elective classes such as band, P.E. or art, and transitioning the ninth-graders gradually to the high school environment.
To help counter problems in attendance and general student apathy, Gravitt said teachers will be assigned "advisement groups," of 18 to 20 students they'll be responsible for.
Addressing the Dougherty County School System as a whole, Mosely said he's made a "second career" of repairing damaged school systems, having been involved with schools in Mitchell, Coffee and Carroll counties.
"The problems here didn't happen overnight and they won't be repaired overnight," Mosely said. "This is about a three-year project, but we should see some immediate results."
Mosely, who was named interim superintendent for the Dougherty County schools in January, said he would like to remain in that position for another year before a permanent superintendent is selected.