Ragsdale was named the sole finalist for the job at an April 10 press conference. The board has to wait 14 days — a waiting period which ends tonight — to make it official because of state law.
Ragsdale was selected from among seven candidates to fill the role after Superintendent Michael Hinojosa announced in February he was resigning effective May 31 to move back home to Dallas, Texas.
Hinojosa and Ragsdale will work together during the month of May as the superintendent job transitions between the two. Ragsdale’s term will run from May 2014 to May 2015. Whether he will stay on beyond that point remains to be seen.
“Time will tell,” he has said previously.
Voters will decide on three school board seats this year, changing the makeup of the group picking the superintendent in 2015.
“It really doesn’t matter what I think, the next board will make that determination,” said school board Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci, who is not running for re-election.
Ragsdale came to Cobb in 2006 when he was hired by then-Superintendent Fred Sanderson as chief information officer. He held the same position at Paulding County Schools from 1992 to 2006.
With the promotion, Ragsdale’s pay will jump from $135,000 to $185,000. Hinojosa’s base pay was $247,625.
As Cobb’s deputy superintendent of operations, Ragsdale oversaw a staff of about 2,000, including such departments as technology, SPLOST, construction, maintenance and safety.
History in Cobb, Paulding
Ragsdale, 45, was born in Marietta’s Kennestone Hospital and grew up in Paulding County, where he lives with his family, including his 12-year-old daughter. His mother, Brenda Ragsdale, is a retired Paulding County elementary school teacher, and his father, Glen, retired as vice president of an industrial air-conditioning company.
Ragsdale worked in his father’s business, called Seasons 4, during his younger days. A distant relative also owns Ragsdale Heating, Air & Plumbing, a well-known company based in Dallas, Ga.
“Most Ragsdales in Paulding County are related,” he said with a smile. It was computers and technology that piqued his interest, however. He worked with computer programs on things such as wiring diagrams while at Seasons 4 and things progressed from there.
In 1987, Ragsdale graduated from Paulding County High School, then the only high school in the entire county.
He was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities during his prep school days. Ragsdale played baseball and ran track, and also found time to play piano, saxophone and tuba. He was in the marching band and a member of the school’s academic bowl team. Ragsdale’s musical interests also played a role in his early technology pursuits.
“In that time period, there was a lot of crossover between music and computers,” Ragsdale said. “It was kind of a natural fit.”
He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in information systems at Kennesaw State University and is enrolled in Shorter University’s executive MBA program.
Paulding, which borders the western edge of Cobb, has seen its own population explosion since Ragsdale’s high school days ended. It now contains five high schools as the metro Atlanta area has grown.
But that growth pales in comparison to the growth in technology over Ragsdale’s career. When he began working in 1992, no schools had Internet access and the computers which sat in classrooms were so basic, some did not even have hard drives.
Today’s computers are light-years ahead of what was available then, and Ragsdale has seen how they have impacted classroom learning.
“When I first started, we had no networks, not even within a school,” he said. “Going from a hard drive-less work station for students to today, where we have touch tablets, gigabit speeds in our network. We have Internet whiteboards, networks throughout, classroom projectors. It’s quite the change.”
And he said students today often have technology at their homes superior to anything they’ll find in a classroom. A big movement in the past several years is the “bring your own technology” concept, where students use their own smartphones and tablets in the classroom.
Asked if he considers himself a computer geek, Ragsdale said “not anymore.” As his career progressed, he moved out of strictly technology-based work and into other areas. This culminated in his appointment to the deputy superintendent position, where he oversaw a staff of about 2,000, and now to superintendent of the entire school system.
While overseeing a district with almost 15,000 employees, more than 100,000 students and a nearly $1 billion budget may be daunting, he feels he is ready to step up.
“I have worked in education the past 23 years. I’ve also worked in business,” he said. “The position of superintendent has to be one of leadership. The charge of the superintendent is to lead the school district.”
Other board business
The school board is also expected to accept the retirements of Frey Elementary Principal Joyce Piket and Clarksdale Elementary Principal Marjorie Bickerstaff.
A recommendation for tentative approval of next year’s budget, which should include the hiring of almost 200 new teachers, along with the end of furlough days, is also on the agenda as a discussion item.