Although he has two years left on his contract, Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman announced late Monday afternoon that he will be leaving the Macon County School district on or before June 30.
During Monday night's board meeting for the Catawba County School Board, Dr. Brigman beat out 27 other applicants and was unanimously appointed to take over as their superintendent on July 1 under a four-year contract with a beginning salary of $160,000.
“Serving as superintendent of the Macon County School System has been a very rewarding experience,” said Dr. Brigman in his media announcement. “My wife, children and I have enjoyed our time in Macon County and offer our sincere gratitude to the members of this great community and school system for the overwhelming support provided to us since our arrival approximately six years ago.”
Dr. Brigman has served as superintendent of the Macon County School System since 2006. Before that, he was superintendent for two years in Coffee County, Tenn. He began his career as an assistant principal in Alexander County, N.C.
During his tenure with the Macon County School System, Dr. Brigman worked to build the infrastructure of the school system and help progress education in the county. After taking over as superintendent in the fall of 2006, Dr. Brigman sought to build a positive, progressive atmosphere within the school system. Facing the challenge of uniting Franklin area schools with Highlands and Nantahala, Dr. Brigman began working to establish a plan to generate support to move Macon County forward during a time of economic hardship and continuing budget cuts.
One of his top priorities was improving the existing facilities throughout the district. “The leadership in the principals and staff was instrumental in identifying areas that were in dire need of improvement and we began upgrading the facilities,” said Brigman. He noted that the bathrooms at Franklin High School was one of the top priorities when he first came to Macon County because they had not been upgraded since the school was first built.
To meet budget cuts from both the state and federal levels, Dr. Brigman began the long process of consolidating school sites. Cullasaja was combined with East Franklin first, resulting in reduced costs by consolidating administration and clerical positions.
At the beginning of next school year, the new Iotla Valley School will open, marking the completion of the second consolidation, which combines Cowee and Iotla Elementary.
By leading the charge to build the new Iotla Valley School, with the help of county commissioners, Dr. Brigman has found himself on the forefront of a long-term cost saving measure in the new facility. According to Brigman, the new geo-thermal technology embedded in the school will save heating costs over the course of the next few years.
One area that Dr. Brigman worked toward was improving the graduation and drop-out rates in the county. When he assumed his position in 2006, Macon County was plagued with a 68 percent graduation rate. Through the implementation of graduation coaches and second chance programs on the high school level, Dr. Brigman was able to work with district leaders to bring Macon County up to an 85 percent graduation rate, one of the highest in Western North Carolina. The drop out rate for the district has also drastically improved by being cut by 60 percent in the past six years.
Dr. Brigman set out to do for Macon County while working with less. Faced with a failing economy, Dr. Brigman began working with central office staff to preserve the funds that were available and build a fund balance that is continuing to help Macon County stay afloat during the recession.
“With the help of tremendous leaders and staff, we have been able to avoid laying off a single teacher during a time where some districts are laying off employees by the dozens,” said Dr. Brigman. “We made it a priority to find the most efficient and effective way to utilize state and federal funds, while keeping the best interest of our students in mind.”
Over the next few weeks, Dr. Brigman plans to visit the Catawba County School system frequently to work with the current superintendent, Glenn Barger, in order to familiarize himself with the new system.
The Macon County Board of Education is now charged with finding a replacement for Dr. Brigman. With a little less than two months until Dr. Brigman’s last official day with the district, school leaders have already began the process of searching for the next superintendent.
“On May 7, 2012, the Macon County Board of Education received a resignation from Dr. Brigman, Superintendent of Schools effective June 20, 2012,” said Board Chairman Tommy Cabe in a statement on Tuesday morning. “The Macon County Board of Education is now faced with one of the biggest decisions we will make during our tenure on the board – finding the next leader to serve the Macon County School System. Dr. Brigman has done an outstanding job and has successfully led our school system through some very challenging times.”
According to Cabe’s release, he plans to begin working with the other board members to expedite a timely transition plan to ensure that the school system’s stability is maintained. “We will have further information regarding our interim plan prior to or during out upcoming regular meeting in Nantahala on May 21,” said Cabe.
According to Dr. Brigman, he plans to work closely with the Board of Education to find a replacement, and even after he makes the transition to Catawba County, he is willing to continue helping Macon County make the transition to a new superintendent.