Coweta school chief Bass to retire, Barker named new superintendent


Coweta County School System Superintendent Blake Bass will retire from his position on March 31, 2011, leaving a career that began in 1976. The announcement Wednesday was followed by one from the Coweta County Board of Education that named school system Director of Administrative Services Dr. Steve Barker as the new superintendent.

School system public information officer Dean Jackson said Bass announced his decision at a meeting of school system principals Wednesday morning. Following the announcement BoE Chairman Steve Bedrosian announced to the principals that Dr. Steve Barker would succeed Bass as Superintendent of Coweta County Schools. The school board made the decision following a called meeting Wednesday morning, held before the principal’s meeting, Jackson said.

Bass was appointed as superintendent of Coweta County schools in August 2004. Bass after the announcement Wednesday offered his perspective on the Coweta County School System as it stands today.

“I feel we are in a great place,” he said. “We are sound financially, which a lot of school systems can’t say. We are sound academically, which is evident by the fact that none of our schools are on the Needs Improvement list and that our system SAT scores are above the national average. We are sound fundamentally, which was reinforced by our recent district-wide reaccreditation. Our teacher retention rate is very high, our schools are stable and well-managed and our students are provided with strong and varied academic opportunities.”

Providing information on his history, Jackson said Bass is a native of Coweta County and a product of the Coweta County School System, having graduated in 1971 from Newnan High School. Bass earned his B.A. in History at West Georgia College and a Masters and EDS degrees in Administration from West Georgia. He began teaching U.S. History and coaching varsity football in 1976, first at Heard County High and then at Villa Rica High School. Bass came back home to Coweta County in 1978 and taught at Evans Middle School and served as the defensive coordinator for the Newnan High Cougars under head coach Max Bass (no relation). He held both positions until 1990, Jackson said.

Jackson said Bass then served as assistant principal at East Coweta High School from 1990-1994 and principal at Central Middle School from 1994-1997. He moved to system administration under Superintendent Richard Brooks and served as director of human resources for the school system from 1997-1998, as Executive Director of Administrative Services from 1998-2000 and was then named Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services in 2000. Bass served as associate superintendent of the Coweta County School System from 2002 to the end of 2004, when he was named superintendent of the Coweta County School System by the Coweta Board of Education.

“I remember returning as a coach to the field where I played ball as a student. I remember almost winning a state football championship in 1981. I remember being named principal of Central Middle School. One of my strongest memories is also being appointed superintendent under the circumstances that I was, and being charged with putting things back together,” Bass said of his 34 years in education.

As for the idea of retirement, Bass said that he is looking forward to it.

“It feels great,” he said, then adding a bit of humor to the idea of retirement. “I have had a great 34 years in education, and seven years as superintendent. I’m ready to start the second part of my life and spending more time with my grandson, Ethan. It also feels good right now to know that, by April and for the first time since I was 16, I don’t have a job to go to, and I don’t have to go to school.”

Dr. Steve Barker is currently Director of Administrative Services for the Coweta County School System and has served as a teacher, assistant principal and principal at Coweta County elementary, middle and high schools during his 20-year career.

Barker began with the school system in 1990 as teacher and coach at Evans Middle School, Northgate Middle and then Northgate High school. He was named Assistant Principal of Northgate High in 1998, Principal of Canongate Elementary School in 1999 and Principal of Smokey Road Middle School in 2001. Barker served as Principal of Newnan High School from 2003-2007, when he was named director of Administrative Services for the school system.

Barker earned his B.A. in Education with an emphasis on Social Studies from Shorter College, his Master’s from the State University of West Georgia, and his Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University.

Barker will assume his duties as superintendent on April 1, 2011, following Superintendent Bass’ retirement, Jackson said.

Jackson said the Coweta County School System under Bass’ leadership has realized a number of accomplishments. Among those are:

• Financially, the school system has operated under a balanced budget every year since 2004 through, while maintaining a modest expansion of system reserves every year during that period. The system has avoided layoffs of certified personnel throughout the recession, and avoided increases in local property tax rates (maintained at 18.59 mills), despite several years of state budget cuts. During Superintendent Bass’ tenure, the system retired all remaining long-term bonded debt for school construction during the 1990’s. In 2005, the school system’s 2007-2012 SPLOST (1-cent sales tax) was passed with over 80 percent public support.

• School facilities were improved and expanded. Welch Elementary School, Lee Middle School, Brooks Elementary School and three 9th grade campuses were all built using SPLOST funds during Bass’s tenure as superintendent. There were major renovations at several older schools, including Ruth Hill Elementary, Moreland Elementary, Arnco-Sargent Elementary, Eastside Elementary, East Coweta Middle and Evans Middle schools. New classroom construction reduced use of portable classrooms system-wide from over 100 units in 2004 to less than 20 units in 2010, despite ongoing student enrollment growth during the entire seven-year period. Following a recommendation of the 2005 SACS Accreditation team, Bass also built the Werz Drive Central office and central student registration center.

• Academically, the school system excelled and began a number of initiatives aimed at increasing student achievement. Bass established standards-based classrooms in Coweta County schools, hired the system curriculum specialists in math and science. The school system’s teacher intern program was established through a partnership with the State University of West Georgia. Articulation agreements between the school system and Mercer University and Brewton-Parker College were also established. During Bass’ tenure, the school system successfully sought two district-wide reaccreditations (SACS in 2005, and AdvancED 2010, covering the years 2006 through 2016). SAT scores rose from 1007 in 2003 to 1020 in 2010 (Coweta’s system-wide math and verbal average passing the nation for the first time in 2007). In 2009, all Coweta schools made AYP under No Child Left Behind. By 2010, no schools were on the NCLB Needs Improvement List, for the first time since No Child Left Behind was enacted.

• Other accomplishments during Bass’ superintendency included the system-wide redistricting of all elementary and middle schools through a county-wide parent redistricting committee. A voluntary, system-wide Sick Leave Bank was established, as was the school system’s first internal leadership development program. Coweta schools were returned to a school-based leadership model, and the school system enjoyed it’s highest-ever teacher retention rates during his tenure.

Yet for Bass, he sees another accomplishment, one that is personal.

“For me, my most important accomplishments happened on my first day,” said Bass. “I was charged with re-establishing teacher morale, and moving our system forward after a very difficult period during which the system was governed from a more top-down approach. That first day, I met with principals and told them ‘you have your schools back.’ I told central office staff that we were there to support them. I wanted to place emphasis back on the principalship and on the classroom teacher.”

“After two years of uncertainty, some were concerned that it would take another year or more to restore system morale. By putting the emphasis back at the school level, that happened within weeks,” Bass continued. “We have a strong system because of the people who are here. We are fortunate to have strong, dedicated, talented teachers. They do an incredible job and we owe them tremendous thanks. Our schools also have great principals, and strong parental and community support. Those are the reasons that we’ve been able to accomplish what we have.”