UPDATED: Demopolis superintendent to retire June 30

DrGriffin PictureDemopolis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Al Griffin will retire effective June 30, one year prior to the conclusion of his current contract.

“The board and I have reached a mutual agreement to terminate the contract a year early,” Griffin said Monday afternoon.

Griffin, 45, will retire from public education and move into the next phase of his career.

“I have accepted a position that’s not in public education,” Griffin said, declining to name the entity for which he will be working. “I want to allow this organization the opportunity to make any formal announcement they want to make.”

Griffin’s early decision allows the Demopolis City Schools Board of Education to have three months to conduct a superintendent search. Demopolis BOE Chairman Jim Stanford declined to comment, citing the fact that the BOE has not formally acted upon Griffin’s retirement.

“A very wise man once told me that there’s five qualities of a good leader,” Griffin said. “One is the ability to do the job. The ability to do it correctly is number two. The ability to do it completely is number three. Number four is leaving the organization in better shape than when you came. I’ve cleared those four. The fifth one is making sure you set your successor up for success.”

Griffin took over as DCS superintendent in June 2010 and remained at the helm during a tenuous time in state education.

“Education completely changed in the state of Alabama starting Oct. 1, 2011. From what I understood the other day is there are 136 superintendents in the state of Alabama and I have more seniority than 115 of them,” Griffin said. “When difficult times arise, as they did in Alabama, either the leaders decide to leave or they take the blame for it all. But it’s unbelievable that after five years, I have that kind of seniority.”

Griffin came to Demopolis after having served as principal at Goshen High School. The professional opportunity, in his estimation, called for continued growth and support from numerous individuals and organizations.

“It’s definitely a growing process. I thank everyone for all the hard work. We’ve definitely had a lot of success, growing our workforce development courses, brining in dual enrollment, the grants we’ve written to offset the loss of funds for arts and other educational areas.,” Griffin said. “The hard work from so many in writing grants has really limited the negative impact Demopolis has felt versus what the state has been doing.”

As he reflects on his tenure atop Demopolis City Schools, Griffin cited academic and technological advances amid a trying financial climate as the two greatest points of achievement during his administration.

“We were struggling academically upon my arrival and during the 12-13 year, our eighth grade on the ARMT-Plus, we were fourth in the state in math and eighth in the state in reading. We reached that level. It’s the commitment of our teachers to give the formative assessments and to participate in the data analysis meetings and to allow data to drive instruction. I know not everyone was a fan of that. I know it was a lot of extra work. But the benefits were amazing,” Griffin said. “When I say academic improvement, that also includes technical education. We were able to achieve this during some of the most difficult financial years Alabama has ever known.”

Griffin also cited a technology upgrade spearheaded by DCS technology coordinator Jeremiah Dial as being a keystone moment for the system.

“When you ask about the things I’m most proud of, there’s also the technology growth. It was almost like we went from the 19th Century to the 21st, Griffin said. “We were way behind the curve.”

Griffin noted that those achievements were not entirely of his doing, but were instead the product of work from a number of individuals both in the arenas of grant writing and local economic growth.

“We really had to absorb some teaching units locally in order to maintain the type of school system people expect in Demopolis. It’s going to be imperative that grant writing continues. Between the grants and increasing the sales tax, that really kept us from experiencing a significant loss,” Griffin said. “I thank all the agencies like the business council and the city council and the chamber of commerce. I had a streak of luck because the sales tax analysis has jumped by about $100,000 a year over the last couple of years.”

Griffin also responded to some of his critics, citing an intense focus on grant writing and financial maneuvering as having taken precedence over community visibility.

“I want my critics to know what I was doing. I was writing grants and diligently working to obtain funds to offset the loss of education trust fund money so there was not a negative impact felt in the classroom of Demopolis City Schools. I apologize if there were some meetings or social events I missed, but I was working,” Griffin said. “We’ve done some remarkable things. I know it hasn’t always been popular, but my commitment was always to the children and what was in their best interest. I didn’t cater to anyone or to any group. I catered to the children. We really did a lot of good things for them during this time. I thank the board, attorney Alec Braswell, all the administrators and the teachers. I thank people out in the community who kept me informed. I’m going to leave June 30 and I’m going to leave with no regrets. And I’m going to make sure my successor is set up for success. My prayers are with the board as they set up for this process for the search to begin. I’m not leaving Demopolis for another position in public ed. This chapter of my life is closed.”