New Superintendent Will Focus On 'Sustained Excellence and Continuous Improvement'
The Oconee County Board of Education expects the leadership transition from John Jackson to Jason Branch to be "seamless," according to Chairman David Weeks.
The Oconee County Board of Education made the hire of Jason Branch official Monday with a quick, unanimous vote.
Branch replaces Superintendent John Jackson, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
"Dr. Jackson has done such a great job over the last three years as superintendent and really put our school system on the right track," Chairman David Weeks said following the meeting. "We'll have a seamless transition with Dr. Branch coming in."
Since the announcement that he was the sole finalist for the position, it has been a busy two weeks for Branch. He went on a whirlwind, three-day tour of all 10 schools, meeting students, teachers and parents.
"I've seen great kids, great people, great community." Branch said. "I'm excited to get started and see where we can support teachers and kids, because that's really what it's about -- the work in the classroom."
Branch, who is wrapping up the school year as principal of South Forsyth High School, said as superintendent he'll focus on "sustained excellence and continuous improvement."
"I think we have a great system," he said. "Our job is to keep it great and look for ways that we can try to improve, as any good organization would."
Board Vice Chairman Mike Hunter said he thinks Branch is a great fit for Oconee County Schools.
"Even though we have a high achieving system, we have a lot of agriculture still going on that's important to a lot of people in our county. Dr. Branch grew up on a farm and comes from a high achieving system in Forsyth."
Hunter said he views Branch's most recent experience as a benefit.
"He's not that far removed from the classroom as a high school principal, so he has a good understanding of what's going," he said.
"Very impressive" is how board member Kim Argo described Branch.
"I'm just thrilled he's here and I'm hoping he'll be here many years to come," she said.
Branch's wife Catherine said she is looking forward to moving to the county. She has family in nearby Winder, and believes their 18-month-old daughter Abigail will thrive in Oconee.
"We're excited," she said. "It's a great area and a great place to start raising our family."
Among the dozens of community members who stopped by the Oconee County Civic Center to welcome Branch was Watkinsville City Councilman Brian Brodrick. He has three children, ages 2, 4, and 8. The eldest is a third grader at Colham Ferry Elementary.
"Our schools are really one of the most important assets in our community. Anytime you have new leadership in the schools it's a pivotal moment for the community," he said. " I'm really confident the Board selected the right guy. He seems like a fine fellow and, with those good Georgia roots, I think Dr. Branch will be a hit."
Branch begins his new job on June 1, 2012.
Weeks said he believes the mood throughout the county has been very positive lately.
"Everywhere you go, when you combine Dr. Branch coming with Caterpillar coming, there's just a lot of optimism in the air," he said.