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Superintendent finalists named

By ROB NOVIT Senior writer After a superintendent search that stretched nationwide, the Aiken County Board of Education stayed close to home with two of three finalists -- current Associate Superintendent Dr. David Mathis and former Associate Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson. The finalists were announced Thursday, and the third candidate is Dr. Beth Everitt, superintendent of the Albuquerque, N.M., school district, which has about 89,000 students. Everitt is retiring from that district after 25 years and is eager to move closer to family in the Carolinas and other Southern states. Mathis was named the Aiken County Public School District's associate superintendent for administration in June 2006. Roberson finished an assignment as the Edgefield County School District's interim superintendent Thursday -- more than four months after he turned down the permanent position. Aiken School Board Chair Dr. Christine Sanders said she hopes the board members can come to a consensus pick at a special meeting Monday. The board would then enter contract negotiations with their choice before announcing the selection at the next regular meeting Tuesday, Nov. 27. The board is anxious to have a new superintendent in place by Jan. 1. Dr. Bill Gallman, the former deputy superintendent, retired in June, and his stint as interim superintendent will end in December. The trustees didn't go into the selection process for the finalists with an agenda, Sanders said. "We weren't looking for homegrown candidates or those from outside," she said. "We were looking for the candidates who could best meet the needs of the school district." Everitt, a Sumter native who grew up in Goldsboro, N.C., has a mother and sister in North Carolina. She graduated from East Carolina University in 1976. After teaching in North Carolina for a few years, she decided to pursue graduate degrees at the University of New Mexico. Everitt joined the Albuquerque School District in 1982 and moved steadily through the ranks before becoming superintendent in 2003. Aiken County native Roberson spent his entire career with the Aiken School District until 2006. Mathis, a North Augusta resident, spent his career with the Edgefield system until 2006. The parallels have gotten surreal since then. Mathis was assistant superintendent in Edgefield when he took his current position in Aiken as the associate superintendent for administration. Roberson left Aiken in May 2006 after his working relationship with former Superintendent Dr. Linda Eldridge deteriorated. Soon afterward, Roberson became associate superintendent in Edgefield. When Edgefield Superintendent Dr. Sharon Keesley retired, Roberson verbally agreed to take the job. But he never signed a contract, and in late June, citing family issues, Roberson declined the post. He also said he would apply for the Aiken job, which had become available. Mathis applied for both positions and was one of two finalists for the Edgefield job, losing out in a 4-3 vote of the School Board. Roberson said he wants to see the Aiken School district become "world class" and has visited other districts with outstanding reputations such as Richland District 2 and Gainesville, Ga. "What's fascinating is that most of it can be accomplished with existing resources," Roberson said. "There are magnet schools at the middle and high school level, and doable things involving business and industry will help enrich the existing curriculum." Mathis said his decision to come to Aiken allowed him to broaden his perspective in a larger district with more students and a vast human resources department that's under his coordination. "It also was a priority to strengthen the assessment program here in the district, so principals and teachers would have data readily available to them," Mathis said. "One of the most impressive parts of the Aiken County district is the team of administrators. The parents of Aiken County should feel good about the quality of administrators and teachers." The 25,000-student Aiken County school district would still have challenges, Everitt said, but would provide her with hands-on opportunities she doesn't have now. The two districts have similarities in land mass; Albuquerque's system includes urban areas, a mountain community, farming country and horse farms. Aiken has a diverse population and so does Albuquerque with large numbers of Hispanic and Native American students. "I think I bring a wealth of experience as a teacher, principal and administrator," Everitt said. "I have worked with almost every part of the district. I'm very down to earth and have a great relationship with the board. The superintendent is part of the community, and I would get out and personally visit schools and the communities." The selection process has been a good one for the Aiken School Board, said Vice Chair Rosemary English. She agreed with Sanders that there was no preconceived idea of including local candidates among the finalists. "It's about what kind of skills and expertise they brought and how those skills measured up to the needs of the district," English said. "It just so happened that the three people I chose reflected the vision and mission of the district as to where we wanted it to go." Contact Rob Novit at rnovit@aikenstandard.com.

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