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Georgia's State Board Picks School Turnaround Officer

Georgia's state board of education Tuesday picked Eric Thomas, a school turnaround scholar at the University of Virginia, to take charge of its statewide school improvement efforts. 

The state's politicians and educators have been at odds for several years now over how to intervene in its worst-performing schools. 

A governor-backed ballot measure to create a separate state-controlled school turnaround district failed last year, and just last month, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal refused to sign the state's ESSA plan, created by Republican Richard Woods, the state's elected state superintendent.  

The legislature last session passed a more watered-down initiative that allows for a turnaround chief to guide districts in their school improvement efforts, matching them with resources, charter operators, and consultants. At no point in time, though, will the state directly run schools.

"The proof is in the pudding," Kevin Tanner, a Republican state representative who wrote the original legislation, said to Education Week a few weeks ago. "What we're doing is not working. We need to do things differently."

Before working at the University of Virginia's Darden/Curry Partnership for Leaders in Education, Thomas served as Cincinnati's chief innovation officer.

The other finalists were Eric Parker, the superintendent for laboratory schools on the Eastern Kentucky University campus; and Lannie Milon, a high school principal in Houston.   

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