Let me join in applauding the board’s decision. From the comments by teachers, parents and community leaders, it’s clear that Ragsdale is popular with his “stakeholders.” As I said in this column when incumbent Michael Hinojosa decided to resign, the board should start its search in the district, and if the board could not find a qualified superintendent among Cobb educators, it would be a sad and alarming commentary on the county.
In my view, it’s in Ragsdale’s favor that he is not your usual career educrat. He has a B.S. in information systems from Kennesaw State and is in the executive MBA program of Shorter University. He’s known as a technocrat but — much more than that — a hands-on operational leader and he’s established his credentials on the job, overseeing technology, SPLOST, construction, maintenance and safety.
One of the first ringing endorsements came from John Adams, executive director of Educators First, a nonunion professional association representing many Cobb teachers. He spoke from the vantage point of a former teacher and human resources director for the district and as a former Cobb police officer. Adams has known Ragsdale for 11 years and has worked closely with him.
“He’s a technology and operations guy and that’s going to be at least as important to teachers as someone who has a more traditional background,” Adams said. He also called the choice of Ragsdale “a bold departure from the same old same old.” Turning the job over to him is “a great opportunity for the central office to restore the trust of the teachers and the people on the front lines,” Adams said.
Three cheers for a “bold departure from the same old same old.” That’s what the school district needs. If Ragsdale is as smart as his friends say he is, surely he can lead the way to a more effective administration — which means getting out of the way of teachers teaching. It would be great to see common sense leadership that focuses on allowing teachers to teach — instead of inundating them with forms and reports and all the paperwork that takes so much time.
Ragsdale couldn’t get a better recommendation than that of State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, chairman of the Senate Education Committee and a Cobb school board veteran, the most educated observer and participant when it comes to school matters in this county. Tippins said Ragsdale is “insightful in his reasoning and decisive in his action,” and Cobb has a unique opportunity in that Ragsdale can “marry technology and education,” a key going forward because of changes driven by costs.
Ragsdale showed where his heart is when he stuck to his job for 36 hours straight during the January snowstorm trying to see that Cobb’s school children got home safely. That’s the kind of commitment we need in our superintendent.