Former superintendent Bobby Lester's interim leadership of the Pulaski County School District, now under state control, didn't last long.
Education Director Tom Kimbrell today announced that he'd named Dr. Jerry Guess, 15-year superintendent at Camden Fairview, to lead the district. Release on jump.
Kimbrell said Guess had the personality and skills to lead. Guess said, after 33 years in Camden, he wanted to help Kimbrell and liked a challenge.
He'll get one. The job starts July 5. Guess will be paid $215,000, but use his own car. Lester will stay on for a time to help the transition.
UPDATE: Guess met reporters at noon and carefully, but smoothly and genially answered the expected questions about the fight over desegregation money, lines of authority and the rest. He emphasized he's on a one-year contract. He said he viewed Kimbrell as the "school board," as law provides, but in weighing, for example, the need for state financial aid, he'll consider children's needs first. He said he wasn't ready to say yet if he'd change any leadership positions, but gave a general endorsement to district employees. Kimbrell said state officials had met with representatives of the teachers and support staff unions and the meetings had gone well, but it's not resolved if those contracts will, or must, be followed to the letter.
Guess leaves a district with 63 percent black enrollment where he made $115,000. His deputy, Robert Davis, will succeed him. Kimbrell said Guess was so surprised he stuttered when he called to ask him to consider the job. He sang Guess' praises as an admired leader who'd bring stability to a district that needs it. Guess said he will live in Little Rock, but his wife, who's business manager of the Fairview school district, will stay in Camden along with a 15-year-old boy they've raised since he was a child. He has grown children and grandchildren.
STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT RELEASE
Arkansas Education Commissioner Dr. Tom Kimbrell today announces that Dr. Jerry Guess, a respected veteran school administrator, has been appointed as superintendent of the Pulaski County Special School District.
Guess comes to the PCSSD with more than 30 years experience in education. He's been the superintendent of the Camden-Fairview district in Ouachita County for 15 years.
Kimbrell described Guess as having the personality and skills to lead the PCSSD during this important time. Under his leadership, Camden-Fairview successfully worked through a federal court desegregation order and provided a quality education to a diverse student body. Guess, a native Arkansan, knows the state’s people and laws, and has gained respect from educators and leaders across the state.
"Throughout his career, Dr. Guess has demonstrated integrity and brought a steady hand in good times and in tough times," Kimbrell said. "The PCSSD needs leadership and Dr. Guess will bring it."
Guess will start at PCSSD on July 5. He will replace Bobby Lester, who was tapped as a temporary head of the troubled district after the state took over June 20. Lester, a retired PCSSD superintendent, will stay on for a few more weeks in a part-time role to help with the transition.
"This is an opportunity to help Dr. Kimbrell," Guess said. "I've been at Camden-Fairview for 33 years. I would just like a new challenge. Without a doubt, the problems at PCSSD are significant, but there will be a great deal of help from the people at the department and from any number of qualified people at the district. Right now, the biggest challenge is getting ready for the first day of school."
Guess began his educational career in 1978 as a language arts teacher in the Fairview district, which later consolidated with Camden. He later served as the district’s coordinator for gifted and talented students, as assistant principal and principal of Fairview Middle School, and as assistant superintendent and associated superintendent of the Camden-Fairview district. He rose to his current post in 1996.
He graduated from Chidester High School, not far from Camden. He received a bachelor's degree from Southern State College in Magnolia, a master's degree in educational administration from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and a doctorate from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Guess, 60, was the Arkansas superintendent of the year in 2008 as voted by the Arkansas Association of School Administrators. He is currently president of that group. He was elected recently as the vice president of the Arkansas Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development.
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