March 30, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Tonight, a chapter in the Richmond County school system comes to an end. Former Superintendent Dr. Charles Larke officially retired from the system tonight.
At his appreciation dinner, we talked with many who remember his turbulent journey, but say they are focusing on the future and not the negative past.
News 12 has also learned a state audit of the Richmond County school system shows no major financial problems.
The state auditor released his 2006 report on the Richmond County Board of Education today. His office did find the school system employees don't document travel expenditures properly, and they allow employees to spend $46 a day, rather than the state-mandated $28.
The auditor also found that for the second year in a row, the Richmond County school system didn't keep adequate records of its capital assets.
It's been a rocky tenure as superintendent of Richmond County schools for Dr. Charles Larke, but tonight's appreciation dinner was all about focusing on the strides Richmond County schools have made.
Dr. Larke says he knows that many disagreed with his leadership style and methods, but he insists the best interest of the school system was always at the forefront in his decisions.
"I have always put children first," he said. "The things that was said about the contracts, and all that stuff...just politics."
"It's been some good days and some bad days, but overall I had more good days than bad days," he added.
Those who attended the dinner didn't deny the difficult times either, but they said it is time to move on, letting go of the negative stigma attached to the job of superintendent.
"I think it's the proper thing to do to honor a man who has contributed so much to our city," said Ellis Johnson.
"All in all, it's a win-win situation," said James Kendricks. "He's leaving, they're now in the process of searching for a new superintendent who can enchance the system even better."
The search for a new superintendent has been underway since last fall. Some say it will be a challenging position for whoever takes it.
"I'm sure anyone who comes into this system will have an insurmountable task to fill to replace Dr. Larke because of the work that he's done throughout the years," Johnson said.
"I think his heart and passion for school was good," Kendricks said. "I don't think he was able to accomplish all he wanted, but you have to remember the school system of today is not the school system of 20, 30 years ago."
"When I look at the building program, the student acheivement gains over the past ten and a half, eleven years, I feel great," Dr. Larke said.
As for the years ahead, Larke is being tight-lipped about his next move, but says he's at peace with leaving Richmond County schools and is not dwelling on the negative.
"I tried to do everything I could, and I tried to do it right, and so I've done my best, and I'm satisfied."
The school board is being tight-lipped about Larke's replacement as well, but they do say a decision could come soon. Applicants from all over the country are being considered.