Mar. 18—The next superintendent of Whitfield County Schools is expected to be a familiar face, as both finalists are longtime employees of the school system.
Mike Ewton, assistant superintendent for operations and student services, and Karey Williams, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, are the finalists to succeed Judy Gilreath, who will retire at the end of June from the post she's held since March 2013.
"We had several applicants, but it was the consensus of the board that we want to continue the direction (the school system) has been going in under (Gilreath)," said Bill Worley, chairman of the Whitfield County Board of Education. "Who better to continue that direction than (Ewton and Williams), who have both been under (Gilreath) for several years?"
Ewton has a bachelor's of science degree from Covenant College and graduated the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College where he focused on justice administration. He obtained his master's of public administration from Columbus State University, he was a specialist-in-education honors graduate from Kennesaw State University, and his doctorate of education, with a focus on education leadership, is from the University of Arkansas. He spent time as a deputy sheriff in the Whitfield County Sheriff's Office and as a manager for Mohawk Industries before transitioning into education, and he's been with Whitfield County Schools for 17 years.
Ewton said he's "honored" to be one of the finalists, and he applied for the superintendent position because he believes his "skills and experience" are well-suited to serve in that position.
"Most importantly, I love Whitfield County Schools," he said. "I am passionate about our unified purpose of helping students succeed in becoming productive members of the community."
Williams obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees from Purdue University, and she has an education leadership and administration certification from Lincoln Memorial University. She joined the school system in 1999, and she served as principal of Southeast Whitfield High School, principal of Valley Point Elementary School, curriculum and scheduling director at Northwest Whitfield High School and English teacher at Southeast prior to ascending to her current role. She also taught in an Indiana school system for 15 years and was a high school administrator there for another seven years.
Williams is "honored" to be a finalist and to serve this community through her work, she said.
"The knowledge that I have gained through (nearly four decades in education) has helped me to become a more effective communicator and instructional leader, and I hope to provide the stable leadership the district will need in the coming years."
"For me, 'One Whitfield' is more than a slogan, (as) we are a team," Williams said. "We work hard to make sure our children have the best: the best teachers, the best facilities and the best extracurricular opportunities."
Ewton and Williams are "both strong leaders, and both have worked for the (school system) for a long time," Worley said. "We really feel we're going in the right direction, and we feel (either of them) can continue that."
"We have made many gains these past eight years under (Gilreath's) leadership, but the work is not yet finished, (and) I hope to be able to continue the work we have started," Williams said. "We've excelled nationally with our literacy initiatives, expanded our community partnerships and supported the needs of the whole child."
"Being able to shift and respond quickly and efficiently is important to our success, (and) I envision a proactive, responsive school system that earns the community's trust," she added. "After all, we are charged with developing and protecting our most precious resource: our children."
The board plans to conduct final interviews with Ewton and Williams next week, but dates have not been set, Worley said.
"We hope to have a decision made by the first part of April."