[UPDATE] Lowndes Co. Names Candidate for Schools Superintendent

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[UPDATE 6-14-11] 5:34 PM

The 2011 National Principal of the Year could soon become Lowndes County Schools' next superintendent.

The Lowndes County Board of Education announced Monday that Lowndes High Principal Wes Taylor is the final candidate for superintendent.

Dr. Steve Smith has set his retirement for January 1, 2012.

"I'm certainly thrilled and honored that our school board has the confidence in me to be the next superintendent and lead our school system," says Taylor.

The Lowndes County School Board will make a final vote on the decision on July 1.

Under Taylor's leadership, reports show Lowndes High School's graduation rate has increased by 13% since 2003.

[UPDATE 6-14-11] 11:00 AM

News release:

On Monday June 13, 2011, the Lowndes County Board of Education announced that Mr. William Wesley (Wes) Taylor is the final candidate for the position of Superintendent of the Lowndes County School System. He will succeed Dr. Steve Smith, who has announced his retirement effective January 1, 2012. Dr. Smith will return to work as superintendent in a part-time status until June 30, 2012, at which time Mr. Wes Taylor will assume the duties of superintendent. The board will vote on Mr. Taylor at a called meeting on Friday, July 1st at 11:30 a.m. at the board office located on Norman Drive.
After an advertised search through the southeastern United States, the board reviewed applications from six states with the majority of applicants coming from Georgia. Harold Chambers, Director of Coastal Plains RESA, was contracted by the board to lead the search process. The board members created and used a leadership profile that targeted the characteristics they desired in a superintendent, and interviewed five candidates. All candidates presented strong qualifications for the position; however, Mr. Taylor’s experience, achievements, character, and familiarity with the system played a major role in his selection as the final candidate for the position.

Valdosta, Georgia - June 9, 2011

Officials say they received 19 applicants to replace Steve Smith.

Some from as far away as Michigan and California.

The school board is interviewing candidates and will likely announce the finalists next week.


Valdosta, Georgia - March 21, 2011

A big announcement is made at a south Georgia school board meeting. It marks the start of a nationwide search for a new community leader.

"I'm here to talk a little bit this morning about my plans for retirement," began Steve Smith, 59, a longtime superintendent of Lowndes County Schools.

At a Lowndes County School Board meeting Monday, well over 50 people came together to bid farewell to Smith.

"Even if we disagree with Steve, we know that his heart is in the right place," said Mike Davis, who represents the Lowndes County Board of Education, District I. "And he'd do what's right for the children."

"He's definitely a friend of mine, and he always will be," said Fred Wetherington, the vice chairman of the board. "And I appreciate him and I said, 'We're gonna really miss him.'"

Almost 10 years ago, Smith began his tenure at the helm of Lowndes County's 12 schools.

Many say he adhered to his principles and developed a vision for his team.

"What we were missing was a key ingredient and that was teamwork," said Smith, from his office. "So, we amended the vision to include 'Working together for excellence every day.;"

Smith catapulted from a teacher and coach in Macon to superintendent of Pulaski County Schools, and then the head of Lowndes County Schools.

His supporters didn't want to miss the opportunity to congratulate the man they turned to for leadership.

"He's able to push us but you're aware that you're being pushed but he's doing it so gently and so slowly," said Pine Grove Elementary School Principal Mickie Fisher. "That you don't even notice, you don't even realize it," said West Side Elementary School Principal Creacy Sermons.

"This has been a total team effort," said Smith. "I'm just a small part of what's going on. I couldn't be successful without the hard work of the classroom teachers, the hard work of the administrators and all of our support personnel."

Smith say he's retiring to coincide with his wife, Linda's retirement, and to travel and be with his family.

The Board of Education says they'll likely select Smith's successor in the next three to six months.