During a special called meeting of the Macon County Board of Education Monday morning, Otto resident, Dr. Finley James Duncan was named as the interim superintendent, pending background checks and a salary negotiation.
“I appreciate the confidence of the board and the opportunity to serve Macon County as the interim superintendent,” said Dr. Duncan on Tuesday morning. “I hope to provide some direction and guidance for the district while the board searches for someone to take on the full time position.”
Although he has enjoyed retirement since 2006, Dr. Duncan felt that his 43 years of experience with the public education system could benefit Macon County schools while they search for a permanent replacement for Dr. Dan Brigman. Last week, Dr. Brigman notified the board of his resignation to assume a position as the Superintendent of Catawba County Schools on July 1.
“I am confident in Dr. Duncan and his abilities to serve as interim superintendent during this transition period,” said Dr. Brigman. “I believe that he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position that I am sure will provide the board with the leadership needed to allow for adequate time to make the best decision for selecting a permanent superintendent.”
Dr. Duncan, who moved to Macon County in January 2007, served as the Superintendent for Wilson County, Tenn. Schools from 2000-2006 before retiring. While working in Wilson County, Dr. Duncan served as the Chief Executive Officer of the school system and provided oversight and leadership for 13,000 students in 20 different schools and managed 1,550 staff members.
Dr. Duncan worked to improve the dropout rate of Wilson County schools from 20 percent when he first assumed his role as superintendent, to 6.9 percent by 2004. He also worked to obtain $500,000 in grants to improve the districts technology. The grants allowed Wilson County to improve the district’s technology by upgrading to laptop computers. His experience with technology grants should prove to be beneficial in Macon County because currently, schools throughout the Macon County district are on a nine year cycle and have countless out-of-date computers that are not efficient.
Before making the transition to Wilson County, Tenn., Dr. Duncan served as Principal of Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, Tenn. from 1994-2000. From 1973-1994, Dr. Duncan worked fro the Bradford School District in Starke, Fla., serving in various capacities including Principal of Lawtey Community School for six years, Principal of Bradford High School for five years and Superintendent for the District for eight years.
According to Dr. Duncan, his experience with the Bradford District will help while serving as interim superintendent for Macon County because the districts are similar in both size and structure.
Dr. Duncan received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida and earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of North Florida.
The Board of Education is currently negotiating the terms of Dr. Duncan’s contract and hopes to have a more definite agreement during next week’s regularly scheduled board meeting in Nantahala. As soon as a contract is finalized, Dr. Duncan plans to begin working with Dr. Brigman to become more familiar with the school system.
“Even though I won’t officially start until July 1, I want to start spending time in the district visiting each school and meeting with staff members,” said Dr. Duncan. “I am a firm believer that the difference in a student's life is made in the classroom. I feel very strongly about the idea that a district must operate as a total system, from the bus drivers who get students to school to the cafeteria workers who make sure each child has a warm meal, things can only be successful if we work together and I want to keep that focus in Macon County schools.”
One of the greatest challenges that Macon County and districts across the state are faced with going into next year is maintaining a balanced budget while still providing children with the highest quality of education.
With the 2012-2013 budget already completed and submitted to County Commissioners for approval, Dr. Duncan trusts that Macon County will be prepared for the upcoming budget year. “The budget has already been submitted to commissioners and I am confident that the school system has done an excellent job in continuing to manage funds to provide the students with an exceptional education,” he said. “Angie Cook, the school's finance director, has my upmost confidence and trust in dealing with the issues. I will rely on the district staff and the decisions they have already made when facing next year's budget.”
The Board of Education is expected to approve a finalized contract during their next scheduled meeting, Tuesday, May 22 at Nantahala School.