At the February 24, Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools Dr. Jody Barrow announced his retirement, effective at the end of the school year. He offered these remarks:
Dear Board of Education Members, Faculty, Staff, Students, and all Fayette County Stakeholders,
As you may be aware, the end of the 2020 school year will mark the completion of my 40th year in education. I started my education career in 1980, and the time certainly has flown. Serving as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, and superintendent, covering all spectrums of the K-12 space has been an extremely rewarding career. I have served in six different Georgia school districts over my career, in both low wealth districts and those communities with great affluence. Each setting has been an authentic learning experience and helped me become a better educator.
In 2013, I had the opportunity to come to Fayette County to serve as your superintendent. The district had a strong reputation as a quality system, but for a variety of reasons, Fayette County Public Schools found itself in extremely trying times. With the closing of four schools, the redistricting of all K-8 schools, a projection of a $15 million negative fund balance, the down-sizing of some 300+ staff members, and with multiple changes in leadership, those times appeared very bleak.
However, in working with the BOE to develop a strong governance team, partnering with great teachers, principals and staff, collaborating with parents, and the community at large, the system has done more than just rebound from those tough times. It has regained its footing and is now beginning to flourish once again as a leading school district in Georgia, and pushing toward the “world-class” reputation that is expected by those we serve. I certainly won’t attempt to numerate all of the positive work that has been accomplished over the last seven years, but I am particularly proud that our financial house is in order, operating in the black with seven years of balanced budgets while being able to establish and create nearly $24 million in our strategic reserve fund. With the renewal of ESPOST III, having the highest percentage passage rate in the district’s history, the next five years are on solid footing with the referendum’s approval continuing to support the Board’s five identified priorities. Of course, the recovery of the economy has made much of this possible, but good fiscal management has also contributed to this success, and the multiple reductions of the system millage and bond rates.
Tremendous progress has been made with the district maintaining and expanding its reputation as a leading performer in Georgia in what we have called the “3 A’s: Academics, Arts, and Athletics.” Despite federal and state challenges, the district has consistently performed above state and national metrics. Moving from the status quo, our district has implemented numerous innovative practices including but not limited to the creation of the Center of Innovation, the Communities of Creativity, and going through a digital transformation to a one-to-one district. Our graduation rate has increased, our school climate rankings have dramatically improved, and our innovative and business partnerships have expanded. The district has more work to be done, but there is much to be proud of and celebrated.
All this being said, acknowledging the wisdom of the ages, “there is a time and season for everything,” and while I still have a great passion for the work, hitting the 40-year career mark, it is time for me to shift my focus to the notion of my retirement. My current plan is to retire at the end of June 30, 2020. With support from our BOE, we have assembled a tremendous team of educational leaders who have helped the system make significant progress, and I am confident even better years are in front of Fayette County Public Schools.
As an educator, I have been far from perfect, but over my tenure, I have grown and adhered to a set of core values where our children have always come first. I have developed my value promise that has been shared publicly. I know that I have not always made everyone happy in the leadership decisions I have made, but it has not been because of a lack of effort on my part.
In closing, I feel good about meeting the elements of my value promise. Susan and I love Fayette County and plan to stay here. Our children will continue to attend and graduate from Fayette County Public Schools, so we both are very vested in the continued success of the district. Please know I will continue to lead the district forward, full speed ahead, just as if I was going to be here in the future. Our district is in a much better place than seven years ago, and I do think there will be influential educational leaders who will be interested in this position. I look forward to a solid finish to the 2019-2020 school year, and sincerely thank you for your support and opportunity to serve as your superintendent over the last seven years.
Joseph C. Barrow, Jr., Ed.D.