Anniston schools superintendent to retire
by Tim Lockette
Jun 11, 2013 | 5670 views |  0 comments | 158 158 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joan Frazier, superintendent of Anniston City Schools. (2010 file photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Joan Frazier, superintendent of Anniston City Schools. (2010 file photo by Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star)
Anniston Superintendent of Education Joan Frazier plans to retire next year, she told The Star Tuesday.

“I’m going to give the board a year’s notice so they’re not caught off guard,” Frazier said. “My contract expires June 30 (of 2014) and after that, I’m done.”

Frazier, who has run Anniston’s school system since 2007, said she plans to officially announce her retirement at the school board’s Thursday meeting. That announcement was one of the items on a meeting agenda released Tuesday.

Frazier has been in education since 1976. A graduate of Ohio's Miami University and Wright State, she taught in Ohio for 14 years before coming to Anniston. She worked as a special education teacher at Cobb Elementary for five years, then became principal at Randolph Park Elementary before moving to the school system's central office as federal programs director. She was named superintendent in 2007.

School board president Donna Satterlee Ross praised Frazier for her management of the school system's finances.

"We have a surplus in finance at this point," Ross said. "That's one area that she's been great in."

Shrinking system

Asked about her accomplishments as superintendent, Frazier, too, put financial management at the top of the list.

“I think that financially stabilizing the system, and making some academic progress,” were her greatest accomplishments, she said.

She said the was also proud of “bringing community spirit and community support back to the system.”

Frazier said the “surplus” Ross referred to was actually a three-month reserve the school system maintains in case of emergencies. In October, the school board passed a $22.6 million budget that included $600,000 in unspent money rolled over from the previous year.

The system’s revenues also declined by $1.4 million in 2013 — a side effect of declining enrollment. The school system now has about 2,200 students. Ten years ago, enrollment was more than 2,600.

Not everyone on the school board was impressed with Frazier’s work. Board member C.K. Huguley said Frazier wasn’t able to be “the transformative leader the school system needs.”

‘In the red’

Anniston High School has failed to meet state standards for academic performance — known as Adequate Yearly Progress — for several years. Huguley said that after nearly six years running the system, Frazier should have been able to change that.

“If someone is in a business, and after three or four years they’re still in the red, there’s something wrong,” she said.

Huguley noted that Frazier’s contract expires next year. She said she wouldn’t have voted to renew it, though she declined comment on whether other board members felt the same way.

“I told her personally I would like her to step down,” Huguley said.

Frazier said she didn’t think it would be professional to respond to Huguely’s statements.

“I have to respect her opinion and I’m not going to comment,” she said.

List to be released

Thursday’s Anniston board meeting coincides with the planned release of a list of schools deemed to be “failing” under the Alabama Accountability Act, a law passed this year that would give tax credits to parents who transfer their children out of failing schools. It’s not clear which schools will be on the list — which state school officials are now calling a “priority” schools list — but Senate leaders in March identified Anniston High as one of about 200 schools that might be considered failing under the new law. State school officials say the actual list is likely to contain only 75 schools, or fewer.

Frazier said the release of the list had nothing to do with her decision to retire.

“I’ve been thinking about this since Christmas,” she said.

Frazier was one of the first superintendents to point out that the Accountability Act might clash with federal desegregation orders that are still in place for many school systems, including Anniston’s.

Few superintendents know federal rules as well as Frazier, said Eric Mackey, a former Jacksonville schools superintendent who is now director of School Superintendents of Alabama.

“She’s one of the most knowledgeable people on federal programs in the state,” Mackey said.

Mackey said he saw Frazier last week. The superintendent didn’t mention potential retirement, Mackey said.

“I think Joan is a good educator,” Mackey said. “She has done some positive things for Anniston, and the system has a lot of needs, including a very high poverty rate.”

The search

Mackey said attracting superintendent candidates is harder than it used to be, in part because of the retirement of a number of baby-boom-era administrators.

“Ten years ago you might get 15 to 20 candidates for a position,” he said. “Today you’ll get six.”

There are no candidates lined up yet for the superintendent’s position, Ross said. She said the choice of a superintendent is the most important decision a school board can make.

"This is the most crucial and critical thing we can do as a school board," she said.

Huguley said she looks forward to the process of seeking a new school leader.

“We need a superintendent who is a visionary,” she said.

Asked what she would like to see in a new superintendent, Frazier declined to comment, saying that was up to the school board now.

The superintendent said she planned to keep her teaching skills sharp in retirement by volunteering, tutoring and possibly setting up an educational consulting business.

“I’d like to start my own business that relates to consulting and helping students,” she said. “These things are not really occupying my mind right now. I still have a job to do.”

Capitol & statewide reporter Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star.
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