Gregory King is known in the Detroit school system as a “turnaround principal,” his job being part of a larger Michigan initiative to improve the lowest-performing schools in that state, beginning with its largest city.
"I like him in particular, not necessarily above any of the other candidates, because of his experience as a turnaround principal and improving schools," said Donna Ross, president of the Anniston Board of Education. “That's one of our goals, to improve schools and student achievement.”
King, 45, became the fourth candidate for the board to consider when Reginald Eggleston, assistant principal for Mobile County Schools, withdrew his application earlier this month.
After months of searching, the board on Dec. 5 first narrowed its selection of candidates down to four from 38 applicants. All the candidates, including King, had been recommended by Illinois-based firm BWP and Associates, which the board hired in July to manage the initial applicant selection process.
Board interviews of the candidates begin in January and one will be selected as early as February to replace Superintendent Joan Frazier, who will retire at the end of the school year.
The other three candidates include Darren Douthitt, superintendent of the Butler County Schools and former Anniston High School principal; Keith Stewart, superintendent for Bullock County Schools; and Vickie Scott, a vice president at Highpoints Learning in Duluth, Ga. Highpoints is an education company that serves 27 states and offers programs to improve math achievement in schools.
Sandra Sims-deGraffenried, associate with BWP, said the only reason BWP did not initially recommend King to the board was due to his lack of central office experience. Otherwise, he was one of eight she thought would be excellent superintendents in Anniston.
“But central office experience is not a requirement for the job and his is not second fiddle to the other candidates,” Sims-deGraffenried said. “He very much can do the job."
King, who has more than a decade of experience in education, has worked since 2012 as a turnaround principal with the Education Achievement Authority in Michigan. The authority is a statewide school system started in September 2012 to assume operations of the lowest-performing 5 percent of Michigan schools. According to the EAA website, the authority began its focus on Detroit schools with the purpose of improving student achievement and making each facility more financially viable. King previously worked in several school systems as a principal, including those in Seattle and Atlanta.
King said he is interested in working in Anniston because its school board is focusing on school improvement initiatives similar to those he has done in his career, such as career technology programs. King said he has also wanted to return to the South for some time to raise his family and particularly likes the Anniston community and its many outdoor activities.
"You have bike trails and and a number of festivals ... my wife and I, we bike and hike," King said. "I'm really excited about the opportunity of joining the Anniston family."
King said his experience in helping poorer schools improve academically would make him a great choice for Anniston school superintendent. King pointed out that his efforts recently led to the Lear Corporation donating $500,000 to the Education Achievement Authority to support science, technology, engineering, arts, athletics and math programs.
King said that based on his research of the Anniston school system, the faculty have made strides in growing academic achievement, but more can be done.
"My role will be learning how to come in and contribute to that growth," King said.
King said one of his high school English teachers initially triggered his interest in education. King grew up in San Antonio, Texas.
"She had a way of motivating me and instilled a love of reading and writing," King said. "When I got to college, I remembered that and preserved that and I taught at a junior college when I first got out of college and continued on from there."
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.