Finding O'Sullivan's Replacement

John O'Sullivan
John O'Sullivan

Now that Col. John O'Sullivan's contract with the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education has been terminated, there's concern about finding his replacement. Deputy superintendent George Bowen will be filling in for now, but according to some, finding a candidate while the school system's on probation will be difficult.

We spoke with former school board members, and they said knowing candidates will have full disclosure as to why O'Sullivan's contract was terminated will not make the school board look good.

The termination was a mutual decision that left many unanswered questions. While many point to the outcome of a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) investigation, which left the school district on probation, other questions have to do with what will happen next.

"I think it's really a shame to basically get rid of someone and then continue to have to pay the cost of getting rid of him and pay him not to be there," said former BOE president Diane Cantor.

She says it took the board she served on nearly nine months to find O'Sullivan, and a new search conducted under what she calls suspicious circumstances will make it all the more difficult, since qualified superintendents are already in short supply.

"I'm also concerned at the impression this may give to search firms and to potential candidates when they see that somebody was achieving success is now...the contract has ended," Cantor said. "I'm concerned that people who are coming to our community may find that a very distressing thought and want to know more about it."

Those candidates will get their chance. According to Cantor, they will have full disclosure into why O'Sullivan left. According to the chairman elect of the Chatham County Commission, Pete Liakakis, it's a situation that doesn't make the school board look good.

But he has confidence things will change for the better. "I'd like to see all of the cities and the county work together with the school board so that we might be able to come in and help them implement things that will help retard these kinds of situations."

Yesterday, the board agreed to buy out the rest of O'Sullivan's contract, which will cost them more than $300,000 plus a reduced benefits package that will be paid out in monthly installments up until June of 2006, when his contract was supposed to be up.

Search firms have until February 3 to submit candidate bids to the board. Board members hope to have a new superintendent in place by July of next year.

Reported by: Nicole Teigen,