Though the City of Athens has no direct control over public schools in the Athens community, the state of local schools, and the proposed $6.25 million bond, has surfaced as a key issue for city office candidates in recent weeks.
Over the weekend, the candidates sounded off about last week’s announcement that AISD Superintendent Dr. Fred Hayes will mostly likely be leaving Athens to become head of the school system in Nacogdoches.
“Evidently Dr. Hayes got a good opportunity to advance himself and provide for his family, and you can’t blame him for wanting to do that. I wish he could have stayed here and helped us, but evidently the opportunity was too good for him. I wish him all the best,” Athens Mayor Randy Daniel said during a weekend interview.
Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Don Vaught added that the news about Hayes is a disappointment.
“It is disappointing that Dr. Hayes is leaving Athens and going to Nacogdoches. I have great respect for the man. I hope that his leaving does not prevent this bond issue from going forward.”
Athens mayoral candidate Joe Whatley expressed his concern that the district lacks consistency in it’s leadership.
“I think that it’s disappointing for him to leave like this,” Whatley said. “There is a good chance that the school bond could pass, and I wish he would have delayed his decision. This is not good for the Athens Independent School District, in general, because we are starting over again. We’ve got no consistency.”
City council challenger Ridge Tardy, perhaps best summed up the thoughts of many in Athens.
“As much as he has pushed for this, I would have liked to have seen him stay and see the bond through,” Tardy said. “He needs to follow his heart, and if that’s where he feels like he needs to be, then that’s best for him, and he should go.”
For the record, Hayes has said that should he receive a formal offer from NISD, he will remain in his current position until sometime in June.
In a statement released by AISD Public Information Officer Robby Robertson, Hayes said that he will continue to work hard for students in Athens.
“I will continue to work as hard as I know how to improve the quality of education, and opportunities for all the students of Athens ISD.....including Bel Air. It is not about me. It is about the welfare of the students. Please join me in supporting the improvements and additions at Bel Air, and vote yes for the Athens ISD Bond Proposal.”
As of last Thursday, Nacogdoches ISD officially named Hayes as the lone finalist for the superintendent’s vacancy, and intends to hire him as it’s next leader. The district is required by law to wait 21 days from the date of the announcement to make a formal offer to Hayes.