McDONOUGH — Community members packed the Henry County Schools Administrative Complex board room Thursday to hear from the district’s sole superintendent finalist.

The public forum gave residents an opportunity to meet and ask questions of Timothy Gadson, who was named the finalist by the Board of Education on June 27 during a special called meeting.

Gadson kicked off the forum by sharing his background and how he came to be an educator. He said he was a business economics major with plans to break into corporate America. A non-compete clause he signed with a corporation following his college graduation kept him from pursuing his dream.

“My mother got ill and I had to go home,” he said.

Gadson said he wasn’t sure what he was going to do, then he remembered the teaching certificate he earned while in college.

“I started teaching and the bug bit me,” he said. “I realized that teachers touch their students’ futures everyday and that inspired me.”

He spoke of his experiences working with special needs students, elevating struggling schools, and implementing new programs such as personalized learning. He said he believes in building relationships with students and working collaboratively with teachers, parents and leaders to improve academic achievement.

Via a community question and answer forum, Gadson addressed several topics, many of which have been discussed on social media in the last few weeks:

Job stability and a commitment to Henry County Schools

Gadson said he has moved jobs frequently to work with school leaders at their request.

“Leaders have asked me to join them and I was able to learn from them,” Gadson said. ” I have made those transitions for leaders. Now I think its time for me to be the leader.”

Gadson said if chosen for the superintendent position he plans to purchase a home in the county.

“This is what I have aspired to do,” he said. “I don’t plan on leaving after two years because I have achieved my goal in becoming a leader. I can commit to you today. This is where I want to live, lead and learn.”

He said he applied for several other superintendent positions because that’s what he wants to be.

“Some might say I’ve been on the market,” he said. “Yes, I have, because I want to make a difference for students.”

Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal

“Let me be very clear,” Gadson said. “The cheating scandal happened in 2009. I was no where near Atlanta or the state of Georgia at that time.”

Gadson served as an associate superintendent for APS from July 2014 to June 2016. He acknowledged reports of possible grade changing during his tenure in the district.

However, following an investigation, Gadson said he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“I believe in a pattern of behavior,” he said. I submit to you a 23-year career where no allegation like that has been made. It was proven there was no wrongdoing on my part.”

Student success, teacher retention and school improvement

Gadson tackled several other topics including student discipline, athletics, teacher retention, school improvement and student success.

He said his first focus will be listening, learning and assessing what’s happening in the district to develop an “actionable school improvement plan” to move students forward.

Additionally, Gadson said he wants to hear what the community has to say.

“Our community members who are taxpayers have a say in what we do,” he said. “It’s important for us to listen to the people who provide the funds to teach our children.”

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Education reporter Heather Middleton joined the Clayton News and Henry Herald in 2002.

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