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Donald Smith's first official day as Marion County superintendent is today.
While the first day of any job is critical, Smith said he feels confident and prepared because he has been working in the district since he was hired in late April.
"The transition plan that Mr. Marcum put together was outstanding. I can't say enough about that," Smith said last week while he and his family set up his new office at the Marion County Board of Education.
Retiring superintendent Roger Marcum has not only helped Smith transition into the position but he has also given him some useful advice.
"The one thing that sunk in finally is to remember that you are the superintendent... Everybody is going to come to you but when you make a decision, it's your decision," Smith said. "And you have to do what is best for kids. A lot of people say that, but do they really do it?"
As superintendent, Smith will be leading more than 600 employees and 3,200 children while being held accountable by a community of more than 13,000. Because of the large number of people that will be directly affected by any decision he makes, he realizes the need to think things through.
"Wisdom tells me that I need to hold off on some things," Smith said. "I need to take six months to a year and look at everything before I make certain changes."
Smith faces a daunting task, not only because he will be following in the footsteps of Roger Marcum, but also because of the state's current financial crisis, which is making it difficult for school districts to operate efficiently while still meeting students' needs. The Marion County Public School system is in sound financial shape, and Smith expects it to stay that way with the recent hiring of a new finance director. Smith recently announced that after interviewing many well-qualified applicants, Marion County native Lisa Hutchins was chosen to be the district's next finance director. Chuck Hamilton resigned as finance director in May to become the superintendent in Mercer County. (Hamilton was one of four finalists for the Marion County position.)
Hutchins has been employed by The Rawlings Company, LLC in LaGrange for the past seven years and currently serves as the recovery accounting director there. Hutchins is a 1986 graduate of Marion County High School and will be relocating here to take the position. Hutchins holds a bachelor of arts in accounting from Bellarmine University and is a Certified Public Accountant.
Smith said when searching for a new director he was looking for a C.P.A. that could run the school system like a business.
"We've got the best of both worlds now," he said.
Hutchins' first day as finance director will be Monday, July 6.
Another staffing decision that Smith was faced with when Hamilton resigned was the position of personnel director. Hamilton served as both the finance director and the personnel director. Smith recently announced that Teresa Osbourn will be taking over as the district's personnel director. According to Smith, Osbourn's responsibilities as payroll manager, her direct relationship with Hamilton regarding personnel issues and her knowledge and people skills will make for a smooth transition to the position. Osbourn holds a bachelor's in business administration with a minor in office management.
Smith said he feels confident in his recent hires and is ready to begin his duties officially as superintendent.
"It's an historical event... being the first African American male to take this seat officially," he said. "I understand the historical significance of that and I want to do a great job, not only for that reason, but I want to prove to the community why the board selected me."