By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
With the system’s first-ever appointed superintendent set to take over next year, Cullman County Board of Education superintendent Billy Coleman has announced his retirement effective July 1, 2014.
He made the plan official following Thursday night’s regularly scheduled school board meeting, and said he chose the date to allow the board to make a new-hire choice during the optimal “hiring season” of summer.
The board is expected to start the search for Coleman’s replacement in January, with hopes of making an announcement in late may or early June. The process will be similar to the recent superintendent search in Cullman City Schools, which resulted in the hiring of Dr. Doreen Griffeth as Dr. Jan Harris’ replacement.
Though he’s managed to check off his entire list of major goals in less than one term — from getting a countywide half-cent sales tax implemented, to the appointed superintendent legislation — Coleman says he’ll mostly remember the little things about his brief tenure in office.
“We sat down and made a list out, and we’ve pretty much got checkmarks on everything there. But, it wasn’t me, it was because everyone worked together,” he said. “But really, it’s the little things that probably mean the most to me, like riding on a school bus and talking to a kindergarten child, watching one of our Inspiress teams make its engineering presentation, walking down a hall and high-fiving a student, or just sitting in a lunch room and talking to teachers. It’s the little things that really make the difference to me.”
At the request of the school board, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill earlier this year changing the superintendent’s position from elected to appointed. The change means that Coleman will be the last superintendent ever elected in Cullman County.
His term is technically set to last until December 31, 2014, but Coleman said he wants to retire early so the new superintendent can start work when the 2014-2015 school year begins.
“That seems like the best time for me to step out of the way, because even the Alabama Association of School Boards has told us the ideal date for a superintendent to start is July 1. That’s common sense, because nobody wants to leave their job in the middle of the school year, so it makes perfect sense,” he said. “I’ll do absolutely anything I possibly can to help the transition go as smoothly as possible, and I think that’s one major positive about it, to help that be a great transition. I have all the confidence in the world there will be a great pool of candidates who are really qualified. There’s no reason not to think we won’t have a great superintendent put in place.”
Many people in the community, and on the school board, have urged Coleman to apply for the appointed position. When asked if he would be in the running, Coleman said he currently has “no plans” to apply.
“I don’t want to do anything to compromise the process of going to an appointed superintendent,” he said. “I’ve said from the very beginning this is a great move for the system, and it has nothing to do with me. I want to do whatever I can to make sure it goes well.”
Coleman spent much of his teaching career as a coach before becoming superintendent, and said he believes those traits still define his approach to leadership.
“I guess it’s the coach in me, but I’ve shared a message all my life that it’s all about the team, and in education it’s about what’s best for the team; and that’s the system and the students,” he said. “It’s hard for me to put into words how wonderful I think this generation of students is, and I believe this generation is really going to move America back into a direction it needs to go ... I just want to thank God, because I’ve been so blessed to work with the people of Cullman County. I just hope that anything good we’ve been able to accomplish is a reflection back on Christ.”
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.