Effingham County Superintendent of Schools Randy Shearouse had his contract renewed for another three years — but this time, the vote was not unanimous.
Effingham County Board of Education members voted 3-2 to renew Shearouse’s contract, with Beth Helmly and Robert Grant both voting against the measure.
“I was disappointed,” school board Chairman Lamar Allen said of the split vote. “We are one of the top school systems in the state. Our test scores are up; our graduation rates are up. It was very disappointing we can’t get together on it.”
The most recent figures show the county’s overall graduation rate was 87.1 percent, up from 83.3 percent in 2014 and more than eight points higher than the state’s rate of 78.8 percent.
County students also outperformed the state and national averages on the ACT. The state average on the SAT was 1,450 last year, and the county average was 1422.
Allen also pointed out that the school system made it through the recession without relying on extensive furlough days and drastic cuts to programs that other school systems were forced to adopt.
When the school board considered its fiscal year 2016 budget in June, Shearouse said the system made an effort to preserve such programs as high school band and chorus. Middle school chorus was dropped but has been reinstated.
“There were many systems that cut those programs just to survive,” he said earlier this summer. “We knew it was such an important of the community and such an important part of a student’s total education that we did everything we could to make sure that we kept those programs in place. I think the results speak for themselves in what achievements they’ve made and making it a premier program in the state.
“Our board has always felt the arts were vitally important for the total success of the student. We’ve been able to support band through some of the worst times in recent memory.”
The school system also has put into place raises for school system employees.
Grant, who voted against the contract renewal, said he stands behind Shearouse.
“When the school board votes on something, we’re supposed to support it, whether we voted ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for it,” he said. “I 100 percent support Randy and looking forward to working with him in the future on improving our school system.”
Helmly also said she will support the superintendent and the school system.
“People have opinions about decisions that impact the future of the system,” she replied. “The decision not to renew a contract for a man I have known all my life was not an easy one. My opinion for what is best for the Effingham County School System and Dr. Shearouse’s differ and impacted my vote. I am a firm believer in the democratic process and will support Dr. Shearouse and the BOE in continuing to work for the betterment of the Effingham County School System.”
Shearouse was named superintendent in July 2005. The Effingham County native began teaching in the county in 1988 and was principal at Sand Hill Elementary for eight years. He received his doctorate in 2012 from Capella University.