Larke hopes board puts children first

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September 18, 2006

Richmond County school superintendent Dr. Charles Larke says the last eight months have been difficult.

He says school board members took the focus off of children and focused more on him.

In a news conference today, Dr. Larke said he knows when to step aside...and by doing that, hopefully children will be first once again.

Dr. Charles Larke shook hands with board members today, even the ones who launched a campaign to remove him from office.

"I leave here October 31 with no ill feelings, no hard feelings toward any board members," he said. "All I can say is thank all of you."

"It's been turbulent really, not bad, but there were a lot of things we needed to do for the system that we didn't do on time," said Marion Barnes, president of the Board of Education.

The rocky relationship between board members and Dr. Larke began with contract negotiations earlier this year and even led to the start of a termination process.

Larke says it took the focus off of the people who matter most.

"I believe for the last seven and a half to eight months we have not put children first," he said.

"I think for the board it slowed the system down," said board member Kenneth Echols. "We have taken away from the interest of children and we focused on this, and it has not been good."

Last Thursday, Dr. Larke reached an agreement with board members. He'll remain school superintendent until October 31, and then serve as consultant until he retires on March 31, 2007.

"I am glad that the board has allowed me to stay on to reach that 40 year point," Dr. Larke said.

Now he says board members can focus on passing the special penny tax for more textbooks, school buses, and classrooms.

Deputy superintendent James Thompson will serve as interim superintendent.

"My main objective is to make sure the citizens of Richmond County, regardless of who the Superintendent is, the children need the SPLOST 3 to pass," Thompson said.

It's a fresh start for the board, Dr. Larke, and even the person who will fill this empty seat.

After retirement Dr. Larke says he plans to do a lot of fishing, golfing and traveling.

In the meantime, tomorrow the Board of Education will begin a nationwide search for the next school superintendent.