Freeman named new superintendent
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – The top spot in Sylacauga City Schools has a new occupant.

Dr. Michael (Todd) Freeman was unanimously approved for the superintendent position at a called Board of Education meeting Monday morning.

“I recommend the board employ Dr. Michael Freeman as superintendent for the Sylacauga City Schools contingent on the terms of his employment to be negotiated and an employment agreement that’s acceptable to the board,” BOE President Jennie McGhee said.

Board member Steve Marlowe made the motion for approval, and Vice President Tracey Allen offered a second followed with a 4-0 vote. BOE member Skip Smithwick was absent.

Currently principal at Auburn High School, Freeman said he is excited for the opportunity to serve Sylacauga schools.

“Sylacauga is a wonderful community,” he said. “I think the award received about it being one of the finer places to live and grow young folks is representative of that, and I’ve known the city a long time being from Clay County originally. It’s a humbling chance the board has given me, and I’m very appreciative and excited about it.”

Freeman was an early frontrunner during the selection process because of his experience in schools as well as the central office, McGhee said.

“I think Dr. Freeman will show respect and appreciation and have a positive impact on the staff, students and community,” she said. “He will be a good instructional leader to the district and communicate effectively with our stakeholders. Also, Auburn is ranked the fourth best high school in the state in U.S. News and World Report, so that says a lot about his leadership. He’s the model person we should have as superintendent, and most of all, I think he will serve in the best interest of the students. We’re so proud to have him on board.”

Principal of Auburn High School since 2010, Freeman was formerly director of operations and services for Auburn City Schools from 2003 to 2010 and a teacher and coach in the same system from 1993 to 2003.

His education includes a doctorate in administrative leadership from Valdosta State University, “A” certification in administrative leadership from Troy University Phenix City, a master’s degree in social science education from Auburn University and a bachelor’s degree in social science education from Jacksonville State University.

Freeman said he was attracted to Sylacauga based on three factors he believes determine a successful school system.

“First is the support of the community,” he said. “Sylacauga has demonstrated that for many years. Also, support of local government is important, and the City Council is very supportive of schools, especially financially. Third is a system focused on academic achievement, and Sylacauga demonstrated that in its school improvement plan and its goals, so those are three things that are compelling to me, and Sylacauga has all three of them.”

As superintendent, Freeman said his responsibility will be “to make sure everything about our school district is what is best for our students. I am the person who is to be supportive of our teachers, administration and community to make sure those things happen and to work with the Board of Education, because that relationship is the nucleus, I would say, of effecting positive change and making sure students get the best opportunities they can.”

Board attorney Donald Sweeney will now enter into contract negotiations with Freeman, McGhee said. In March, the BOE approved a superintendent salary of $122,500 plus negotiations, an increase from the previous base rate of $120,000. Retiring Superintendent Renee Riggins will officially hand over the job June 30.

The board advertised the position through the Alabama Association of School Boards, which recommended its top six candidates out of 26 applications received. The BOE interviewed those candidates last week and conducted reference checks before selecting its final choice.

“I would like to say I think AASB did a really nice job for us,” Marlowe said at Monday’s meeting. “We had six very good, strong candidates, and I know I was very happy with the applicant pool we got, and I enjoyed interviewing and meeting everybody. I’m very grateful for the work they did.”

The BOE has another called meeting this morning at 7:15 a.m. at the central office. Its next regular meeting is May 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the Sylacauga High School library.

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© 2013