D. Ray Hill didn’t wait for Anniston school board members to ask him what he’d do in his first few months as superintendent of city schools.
Even though he was only interviewing for the job Wednesday, Hill brought an “entry plan” outlining how he’d carry out his first 100 days on the job.
“This is just a draft,” said Hill, a Georgia-based educational consultant.
Hill took questions from board members for two hours at the board’s main office in the last, and longest, of six interviews with candidates for the superintendent position. The next superintendent will succeed Darren Douthitt, who resigned in December, and he or she will likely be tasked with shaping up the school system’s budget.
Anniston has none of the state-required reserve funds the system is supposed to have on hand, and board members have said the system is in essence operating on a deficit.
Hill, like half of the candidates, hails from Georgia, where he works for BRP Associates, an educational consulting company that, according to Georgia state records, was formed in 2014. Before that he was superintendent of Macon County schools, served as principal or assistant principal at various Georgia middle and high schools and was a band director.
Hill told the board he’d been an assistant principal for 11-and-a-half years in total. He said that some might consider that too long a stay in the second-from-the-top job, though Hill said it taught him much of what he knows.
“During that time I had the opportunity to focus in on my craft,” he said.
Hill said he faced an $8 million deficit when he became a superintendent, and left with a $1.6 million balance. He said hard decisions to eliminate duplication were part of that process, though cutting classroom teachers was the last option.
“You never touch funding that’s close, or personnel that are close, to our children,” he said.
Hill’s 100-day plan includesaudits of both the financials and the curriculum, as well as meetings with teachers, students and outside stakeholders. He said he’s tried similar approaches in his past superintendent role.
“I met with principals and said ‘I need to clear $100,000 this year, and I want you to help me,’” he said. “Of course, the response was crickets.”
Hill said he later found 10 pallets of long copy paper sitting in a storage room — paper someone had ordered and no one wanted to use. He cancelled an order of incoming paper and told school administrators to use their paper-cutters until all the paper was gone.
Small changes like that, he said, saved money. Hill said that in talks with teachers and students, he found out which educational computer programs were working and which ones students didn’t use. His district saved about $100,000 abandoning useless programs, he said.
“Students had to remember four different login and ID setups,” Hill said of the situation before the programs were canceled.
He said he’d seek out public opinion about the school system everywhere.
“I go to the barbershop,” he said. “I like to get my truck washed just so I can talk to the guys who wash my truck.”
He said one such talk helped him find out about a bus driver who was taking a bus to unauthorized places — something Hill was able to stop.
Hill’s interview completes two weeks of occasional meetings with superintendent candidates. School board members now have to choose between Hill and five others; current interim Superintendent Marlon Jones; Barbour County Superintendent Matthew Alexander; Angela Bush, a principal in Trussville; school improvement specialist James Martin, of the Chattahoochee-Flint Regional Education Service Agency in Georgia; and Garrett Brundage, chief of high schools for Rockdale County, Ga.
Board chairman Robert Houston said the board is likely to choose a superintendent next week.