In terms of public education in Fayette County, the announced resignation by school Superintendent Dr. John DeCotis on Wednesday represents the end of an era. A 31-year veteran of Fayette County schools, DeCotis said his resignation will take effect at the end of his contract term that expires June 30.
DeCotis in his 31 years with the school system has held numerous positions, beginning as a science teacher at Booth Middle School, known at the time as Booth Junior High, and culminating in 1999 when he was hired as Superintendent.
The announcement by DeCotis came the morning following the Feb. 9 school board meeting.
Commenting on the resignation announcement, school board member Marion Key spoke about knowing DeCotis for the past three decades.
“We go a long way back. I’ve known John since 1980,” Key said. “I thank him for his many, many years of service in different capacities. We’ll miss him and we’ll never find another John DeCotis.”
Also commenting on the decades of service provided by DeCotis was board member Bob Todd.
“I’d like to thank him for his years of service on behalf of the students in Fayette County. He came here as a teacher and worked his way through the system, up to the Superintendent’s office,” Todd said. “I personally wish him well and we’ll miss him.”
Todd said the loss of DeCotis will have a significant impact on the school system.
“He has spent considerable time and energy in helping to maintain our standard as one of the best school systems in Georgia. I’m sorry to see him go, but at the same time I’m happy for him because he can do the things he wants,” Todd said.
DeCotis began his career with Fayette County schools in August 1979 as a Science and Physical Education teacher for grades 7-9 at Booth Middle School. DeCotis remained in that position until August 1981 when he became Assistant Principal at Fayette County High School, a position he retained until August 1982.
It was in that year that DeCotis took the position as Assistant Principal at McIntosh High School, where he remained until October 1984. DeCotis then served as Principal at Huddleston Elementary School until August 1988.
It was in August 1988 that DeCotis made the transition to Director of Elementary Education, a position in which he served until August 1994 when he became Executive Director of K-12 Education. He served in that capacity until August 1998.
And it was in August 1998 that DeCotis was hired as Assistant Superintendent of Education. He served in that position until being hired as Superintendent in April 1999.
After being hired as Superintendent and in an interview with The Citizen on April 14, 1999, DeCotis spoke about his 20-year career in the Fayette County School System and his having been hired by the school board to fill the position held by Dr. Dave Brotherton who was retiring.
Reflecting on his arrival in Fayette County, DeCotis told The Citizen in the 1999 interview that he had been educated and did some teaching in New York before moving to Massachusetts to earn a master’s degree. Once that had been completed he began sending out resumes in 1979.
He got a couple of responses from Fayette County and took a train to Atlanta. From there he took a Greyhound bus to Fayetteville. DeCotis was subsequently hired to teach at Booth Junior High School.
DeCotis in 1999 said one of the biggest areas of need for any school system, including that of Fayette, was the incorporation of technology.
“Every job now that exists relies on technology. And we need to upgrade and add more technology to our schools,” he said.
DeCotis in the Feb. 10 press release made a brief but cogent statement that reflected his appreciation for the time spent in Fayette County schools and in the communities of Fayette County.
“I want to thank our current and previous school boards for their support, commitment and vision. I also want to thank our students, staff, parents and community members for their support and efforts over the years,” DeCotis said.
During his tenure, the Fayette County Public School System has won numerous student, staff and school awards. The school system has also been recognized at the state and national level for its academic achievements, said Communications Director Melinda Berry-Dreisbach.
Berry-Dreisbach said DeCotis, too, has been recognized locally and nationally as an outstanding leader and positive role model for other educators and administrators.
His most recent awards and honors include: winner of the 2009 Outstanding Educator Award from the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders (GAEL); inclusion in the 2008-2009 Honors Edition of the Cambridge Who’s Who Registry; a finalist for the Georgia School Superintendents Association (GSSA) 2009 Georgia School Superintendent of the Year award; recipient of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce 2008 Dreambuilder Award for community service; winner of the 2007 GSSA President’s Award for excellence in leadership, community involvement and professional accomplishment; and recipient of the NAACP Community Service Award.
In addition to serving the Fayette County Public School System, said Berry-Dreisbach, DeCotis has been actively involved in many community service activities.
Over the years he has served as chairman of the YMCA Board of Directors; member of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Advisory Board; member of the Fayette County Safe Kids Coalition; chairman of the YMCA Aquatics Facility Development Committee; youth leadership chairman of Toastmasters International; member of the Southern Federal Credit Union Board of Directors; member of the Fayette County Board of Health Board of Directors; member of the Fayette Youth Protection Home Board; and a member of the Knights of Columbus.