We met with Cliff for a short Q&A on his role, accomplishments and future goals.
Current job and responsibilities.
As Superintendent, it’s like I am the acting Chief Operating Officer. I’m responsible for every decision that’s made within the school district. Basically every aspect of the district from the day-to-day operations, budget, vision mission, it all leads back to the Superintendent’s office.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
One of the most rewarding days of the year is graduation. It’s always very rewarding to see students reach their goal of graduation, as well as when you see students receive various awards or honors that make you very proud. It’s also rewarding when former students enter into the teaching profession, or teachers that you have worked with continue to grow and are now assistant principals, principals or your peers in the central office.
What’s your most proud accomplishment as superintendent?
I think it’s really the success of the students. But if I had to pinpoint one specific instance, it would be how the entire district pulled together in March 2012. Poole Elementary School was hit by tornado on a Friday night. There was significant damage to the school; we lost a whole wing. To see the efforts of the community, our maintenance, staff, RKR, partnerships with different organizations, to be able to open that building on Monday morning for those students to come back into their building to me was a great accomplishment and something I will never forget.
How does having two sons in HS affect your leadership/viewpoint as superintendent.
Having two sons in high school provides a different perspective on things that are going on within the school, or how things are done within a school. Oftentimes, my boys tell me things that they don’t realize – they’re just sharing something with dad – and in the back of my mind I’m thinking ‘we’re doing what?’ or ‘we should be doing this’ or ‘why is that happening?’ I tell people often, I don’t want my boys to be treated differently than any other child in that school, but I want every other child in that school to be treated like they’re my boys.
What are the most important items left on your plate to accomplish?
As Superintendent, I don’t think you could every accomplish everything that you had want to. For one, I would love to say that 100% of our students graduate from high school and are ready for the next step in their life. That’s an unrealistic goal, but that would be something I would love to see. I think it’s important that we continue to work toward a highly effective, efficient teaching staff and retain those quality teachers. Again, achievement of student successes is a never-ending cycle, and there are so many different things going on within the district that can change from week to week.
Share with us your involvement with YouScience.
The 10th graders at Hiram High School participated in the state pilot to take the YouScience Profile. In addition, all of the 11th graders in Paulding County completed the YouScience profile. Plus, our 8th graders took part in taking YouScience as part of a product development “partnership/initiative.” The great thing about YouScience is that it tells the students where their interests are from their aptitudes and where they will have success in different fields. It enlightens them and gives them a multitude or a range of professions for postsecondary. I think as parents we sometimes strive or push our students to a certain direction or certain career, and YouScience will often show students ‘hey your strengths are going to be here’ and it enables a student to think about their next path, and in essence it saves some time in college. There are so many students today or so many young adults today that have gone to college and are not using their field of study. And they often times go back and as we all know the cost of college today is very difficult to do. Also, YouScience enables some of those students that are really not sure what they want to do after high school, whether it is to go to college or join the workforce, YouScience gives those students a direction as well. And I think it is one of the areas that it’s most beneficial.
Share with us your relationship/partnership with RKR.
I have had the opportunity to work with R.K. Redding Construction over the last 10 years. And to me, the most impressive thing about RKR is their quality of work. We have never had an issue where we’ve had to extend time or delay the start of a school because of a construction project not being done. Their employees, in my opinion, are first class, and I think that starts from the top with Randall Redding. Randall is a man of integrity and that carries throughout his company. The employees that we deal with all have high integrity, again it’s just when you’re working with them, it’s truly a partnership. They want to do what is best for the district and meet district needs. As our Construction Manager at Risk, RKR has saved us enough money to extend our project lists much further down the line than we originally thought we would. And the thing about RKR is that they are always looking on how they can give back to the district or to the community, and that goes a long way.
What do you enjoy outside of your job?
As far as my passions, I’m an avid runner and I have finished a couple of marathons. I started running about 3 years ago and through my running I’ve become a supporter of St Jude’s Hospital. I was born in 1962 and I was reading some information awhile back on St. Jude’s and since 1962, the overall childhood cancer survival rate has gone from 20% in 1962 to 80% today. So, I took my running and tried to do something special with it. I am also a supporter of breast cancer awareness. One of my best friends, Shirley Jergel, who was a peer of mine as a Cobb County principal, passed away and it started with breast cancer. Since that time, those are the two organizations that I love to support.