John Oliver has been part of the Bryan County school system for 25 years and in education for 40 years. Now, he’s tasked with running Bryan County Schools on a day-to-day basis as interim superintendent.
Oliver was appointed to the job Feb. 19 when the Board of Education held a called meeting and voted to buy out Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer’s contract. He said he and other school officials are determined to end the year on a positive note despite recent controversy surrounding Brewer’s forced departure.
"I wish, and I think the community wishes, things had been handled a little bit differently (with regard to Brewer)," he said. "(But) I’m here to support the board and will continue to do so. It’s not one person, or not even a particular group of people. It’s a team effort and our role is one of support."
Before joining Bryan County Schools, Oliver was a consultant with the Regional Education Service Agency for approximately five years, working with multiple school districts including Bryan County.
Oliver said Brewer first approached him to join Bryan County Schools when he was with RESA, after she was elected to a four-year term in the 1980s, and he has since been a part of Bryan County Schools working closely with most school administrators.
"I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in a little of all things, and over the years have dealt with all the different pieces," he said. "It’s been interesting watching the different dynamics of the different boards and administrators."
School board Chairman Eddie Warren had nothing but positives to say about Oliver.
"He stepped right up to the plate and took over," Warren said. "He’s doing a great job."
Warren said Oliver helped make the transition a good one, and that he’s been accepted by all administration, principals and teachers.
"He has a great personality and people can communicate with him, which is extremely important in any business," Warren said, "which is why the board was confident in his ability to act as interim superintendent."
Oliver said he’s thought about applying for the superintendent position, but has not made any decisions.
"In part, it depends on the direction the board wants to take. And, I haven’t decided if I want to. I like being associate superintendent and am contracted through the next school year," Oliver said. "Until the superintendent position is filled, I’ll be here keeping it together."
He said he thinks the board will take the time necessary to find the ideal candidate. The next step, he said, is contacting Bill Sampson of the Georgia Schools Boards Association who will show the BoE how to conduct a successful superintendent search.
"(The BoE) will then decide if they want to go with an outside agency to fill the position or if they want to conduct the search themselves," he said.
Warren said he has contacted Sampson, and they are trying to set up a seminar on how to best conduct the search and the role the GSBA can play.
"We are confident in Mr. Oliver’s abilities, and will take the time to make sure we find the ideal candidate for the job," he said.
In the meantime, the schools are moving forward, Oliver said, noting a recent called meeting to approve a new heating and air unit for Richmond Hill Elementary’s lunchroom and site preparations for the new Richmond Hill Middle School.
"We’re going to be about the business of the board," he said. "All board members are quality people who I think are interested in doing the right thing for the schools."
The school board voted 4-3 to buy out Brewer's contract. The amount of the buyout -- Brewer has said she wants $250,000 -- is reportedly still being negotiated.