Barrow hired to be Fayette’s new school superintendent

New Fayette County School Superintendent Dr. Joseph “Jody” C. Barrow, Jr. Photo/Ben Nelms.

Ware County School Superintendent Dr. Joseph “Jody” C. Barrow, Jr. received unanimous approval by the Fayette County Board of Education Monday night to serve as superintendent of Fayette County schools beginning July 1.

Barrow thus will take over the actual day-to-day operation of the county’s largest government, its largest expender of tax dollars and its largest employer.

Prior to the vote, board member Leonard Presberg said he was excited about Barrow’s hire, with board member Barry Marchman adding that Barrow is “the right man at the right time.”

Barrow after the vote made brief comments to board members and the audience.

“I’m incredibly humbled and honored to come to Fayette County with its rich tradition of excellence. I hope to build on that,” he said.

Barrow said all school districts are struggling with the new economic norm, “but I look at this as an opportunity. I’m excited.”

Barrow said his family includes two children who will attend Fayette County schools.

Having served in Ware County since 2006, Barrow was one of 30 initial applicants for the Fayette job and, after conducting interviews with six finalists, the school board last month named Barrow as the only finalist under consideration to replace interim Superintendent Dan Colwell in July.

A portion of each perspective candidate’s application included handwritten comments on the applicant’s education philosophy and a statement outlining their specific interest in Fayette County.

Explaining his philosophy on education, Barrow said successful school systems “begin with the end in mind” because they have clear, targeted goals and objectives identified. Citing “Alice in Wonderland,” Barrow said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

“Successful (school) systems ensure that their students take the right road. Successful school systems do more than hope to ‘beat the odds.’ They work to change the odds,” Barrow said. “Bottom line, a quality education is provided, doors are opened for all students and young people are challenged and supported to be better citizens and productive members of their communities.”

Barrow in the portion of the application dealing with why he wanted to come to Fayette County said his experience and the innovation in Ware County that led to establishing higher academic standards and offerings in a low-wealth economic environment combined with an opportunity to enhance the standard of excellence expected by the Fayette community all combine to make a “good fit” for all involved.

“My career goal was to become a school superintendent. I prepared for this opportunity and was ready when Ware County called in April of 2006. Much research and most common sense tells us that strong leadership is essential for any school/system to be successful. However, an important element not always mentioned is that of a ‘fit,’” Barrow said.

“Fayette County is a special school system, but I know the board faces tough budgeting considerations while maintaining the standard of excellence expected by the community. I have led a low-wealth district and achieved tremendous growth in spite of having limited resources. I know the (Fayette) system is studying the possibility of a college and career academy. I have led a community through this process and have established a superior model for students to become college and career-ready. I can help resolve the financial challenges and facilitate the new college/career growth deemed appropriate by the (school) board.”

Taken as a whole, Barrow told the school board he sees the position as superintendent of Fayette County schools as an opportunity for a “great fit for both of us.”

A check of the Waycross Journal-Herald newspaper in Ware County noted Barrow’s selection as the lone finalist in the search for a new superintendent and provided an overview of his leadership of the school system that began in 2006.

While his arrival in Ware County led to his being initially described as somewhat divisive and being perceived as a micro-manager, Barrow was subsequently described as one who motivated and praised both teachers and the community for their efforts that led to the school system’s successes, according to published reports.

Barrow also had his share of economic woes that led to his recommendation that the Ware County Magnet School be closed. The criticism that followed the closure was soon offset by subsequent academic gains and other school system accomplishments, reports said.

“In seven years under the leadership of Dr. Joseph Barrow, the Ware County school system has risen from just an average district to the class of the state. Under Barrow’s watch, which began in 2006, test scores have sharply increased as has the county’s high school graduation rate,” the Waycross Journal-Herald said in the April 18 edition. “He has shepherded the system toward large capital improvement projects funded by sales taxes, the biggest feather being the construction of a wing of classrooms at Ware County High where faculty members teach an innovative career technological-agricultural curriculum.”

Barrow and the fiscally conservative Ware County Board of Education were also described as having “maneuvered the local schools through the worst period of economic times since the 1920s, a downturn which, unfortunately, is still challenging public education here and across the United States. Ware’s schools have weathered the storm better than others, largely because the board had socked away a contingency fund,” according to reports.

Also noteworthy were Barrow’s comments to the Ware County community upon being selected as the lone finalist for the Fayette County job.

“I am humbled and honored as their selection,” Barrow said in reports. “But it is not without mixed emotions. Susan and I have prayed about this opportunity and feel this is the right decision for our family at this time. The Ware board and I will be discussing transition plans at our meeting next week.”

There is no reason Ware County cannot continue on its mission of ‘Pathways for All — Success for All.’ It has been my pleasure to serve as your superintendent of schools and wish only the very best for the children, staff and families of Ware County.”

Of the 30 applications submitted to the Ga. School Boards Association, six were interviewed and Barrow was selected as the only finalist for the position. The school board is expected to vote on Barrow’s hire at its Sept. 29 called meeting.

Barrow has been responsible for the direction of a system that operates six elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.

Prior to his time heading Ware County schools, Barrow held the position of principal in schools in Vidalia, Brunswick and Bethlehem from 1989-2006. Barrow began a career in education in 1980 as a middle school and high school teacher and coach in Appling County.

His administrative experience includes planning, developing and administrating school system budgets of more than $70 million.

Barrow earned a Ed.D in Educational Leadership and Supervision from Nova Southeastern University, a M.Ed in Health and Physical Education from Georgia Southern University.

Barrow in 2012 was named president-elect of the Ga. School Superintendents Association and in 2011 won the Bill Barr Leadership Award, named for the first GSSA executive director. He has received numerous honors, including the 2012 Georgia Partnership for TeleHealth Champion of the Year and in 2012 was appointed to the board of Georgia Rural Health. And in 2011, Barrow was a presenter on “Education and Opportunities Beyond the Bandwidth Barrier” at a Ga. School Boards Assoc. conference.

Barrow has been a presenter at state and national conferences and in 2007 authored “What makes a Great Educational Leader.”

Interim Superintendent Dan Colwell will continue to serve through June.