O'Sullivan Out as Savannah-Chatham Schools Superintendent - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/10/04

O'Sullivan Out as Savannah-Chatham Schools Superintendent

John O'Sullivan John O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan says goodbye to colleagues. O'Sullivan says goodbye to colleagues.

The Savannah-Chatham school board is looking for a new superintendent. Col. John O'Sullivan turned in his resignation today, effective immediately.

"The motion to terminate the superintendent's contract is by mutual agreement," school board president Hugh Golson said during the meeting.

It comes on the heels of an investigation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that ended with the school system being placed on probation for the 2005-2006 school year. School board members and O'Sullivan both agreed his leaving would be best.

"We know what's been going on over the last couple of months," said O'Sullivan. "Certainly, we're challenged by the SACS report but the board and I got to the point where, you know, it's like a lot of relationships where you just have to decide what's important. I decided it was in the best interest of my kids that somebody else be given a chance to see if they can do a better job."

There have been a lot of ups and downs during O'Sullivan's three years as superintendent. It all started when the man with a new vision for Savannah-Chatham schools was sworn in.

"A military background does a couple of things," O'Sullivan said at that time. "Number one, it gives you almost a value system, a mind set, a way of doing things that's different from a larger organization, including a school system. So I think it translates over."

No sooner did he take the helm of the school district than Col. O'Sullivan's promise of a bright future seemed to dim when accusations of a falsified resume surfaced. On his resume, O'Sullivan listed a military doctorate degree from the National War College. Although he did graduate, it wasn't a Ph.D. But O'Sullivan said it was the equivalent.

"That's how I see it, and I've made it very clear how I deal with it," he said. "I'm not going to tell you I feel bad about what I said. I feel clear in my mind that it's the best school and it was my top school."

After protest, O'Sullivan cleared that hurdle and was off and running, until the Chatham County Commission put an $11 million dollar choke hold on the school board's budget. But that didn't seem to stop the colonel, because with SAT and CRCT scores on the rise, the numbers seemed to be looking good. And so did the numbers on his pay raise when he was re-signed for a second term.

"To uproot him now, to bring in another person with all the money and trouble we've done in training in that direction, would be tough as a new person came on board with new programs," said Golson.

So once again, O'Sullivan grabbed the reins and was back in the race until the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools began its investigation and suspicions arose when O'Sullivan became a finalist for another job in Baton Rouge.

Soon after, the results of the SACS investigation came out, stating three board members were caught for illegally operating outside their guidelines.

O'Sullivan does not know whether he'll pursue another job as a school superintendent. In the meantime, deputy superintendent George Bowen will lead the district.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen, nteigen@wtoc.com

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