Before his days in a classroom, Dale Gaddis would typically spend his days in a Smyrna funeral home.
As an apprentice and later a licensed funeral director, Gaddis spent 12 years helping those who lost their loved ones prepare for their burial or cremation.
But for almost the past three decades, Gaddis’ work in schools and administrative roles for the Cobb County School System have led to him being one of the two finalists for superintendent of the Jackson County School System.
“I would describe myself as servant leader, because I believe in working with people,” Gaddis said. “I don’t have people work for me, I work with them.”
Gaddis and Dr. John Green — principal of James Clemens High School in Madison, Ala. — are the finalists for superintendent of the Jackson County School System. MainStreet Newspapers reviewed both candidates’ applications for the job and interviewed them in recent days.
While he was a funeral director, Gaddis said he taught community education courses — which later led to his decision to become a teacher. He also served as an emergency medical technician (EMT) while working with the funeral home — a practice that wasn’t uncommon in Georgia back then.
Gaddis got his bachelor’s degree in education from Kennesaw State University in 1983 and started his education career as a teacher at North Cobb High School.
“My area of teaching was the social sciences — social studies — and it was very broad based, but I became more interested in kids and how they learn and why they learn,” he said. “And (I) found out that most kids learn predicated on the relationships that you’re able to build with them. And so, building that trust and that relationship — most kids will learn if they think that you believe in them.”
A year after his time teaching students, Gaddis was named an administrative assistant at North Cobb High School. That followed with a four-year run as assistant/associate principal of Wheeler High School in Marietta and then principal of North Cobb High School from 1990-1996.
In 1996, he began a one-year stint as executive director of high school operations for the Cobb County School System. Gaddis then spent three years as executive director of educational leadership for the district.
That followed with two, one-year terms as assistant superintendent in two positions for the Cobb County School System.
Since 2002, Gaddis has remained in his current role as an area assistant superintendent of the Cobb County School System. His area includes three high schools, three middle schools, 13 elementary schools and one alternative school. Gaddis’ area schools generally have more transient students and those who don’t speak English.
In recent years, Gaddis has been named a finalist for superintendent of the Cobb County and Douglas County school systems — although he didn’t land those roles.
“I applied for a smaller system because I want to know people and I want to know kids,” Gaddis said of his candidacy of superintendent of the Jackson County School System. “I have approximately 19,000 children that I’m responsible for (in Cobb County) and 20 schools. And it’s very difficult in a system with 107,000 children to get that sense of continuity that you need.”
If he becomes superintendent of the Jackson County School System, Gaddis said he will first listen to those in the community about the district.
“Jackson County is doing pretty well and you have a lot of good things going on,” he explained about a plan to meet with groups in the community and take recommendations for improvements.
Gaddis said he’s helped improve academics for the Cobb County School System, but believes that a school system should be about the “business of student success.” That would involve him getting to know what’s happening in Jackson County classrooms before proposing any changes.
“Change is not easy,” he said. “And change, you can’t initiate immediately.”
Gaddis said he has many years of experience developing a budget for the Cobb County School System, although many districts — including Jackson County — are experiencing the same financial problems with dwindling state and local revenue.
Gaddis said he plans to do a better job providing an economic forecast to anticipate any budget shortfalls. Despite the economic challenges, Gaddis said a school system must still plan its budget for three to five years in advance.
“It’s very difficult to do, but it’s not impossible,” he said.
Besides his work with schools, Gaddis, 57, said he enjoys volunteering at Marietta First United Methodist Church — where he has held a number of positions and continues to teach Sunday School to five and six-year-old students. Gaddis and his wife, Angie, have been active members of the church.
“I like a sense of community, I think you have to be part of a community — and that means many things,” he said.
Dale E. Gaddis
•Current Position: Area 2 superintendent of the Cobb County School System
•Other Most Recent Positions: Assistant superintendent of school improvement for 6-12 education and assistant superintendent of school improvement for high school education, both for Cobb County Schools.
•Education: Kennesaw State University, bachelor of science in secondary education, 1983; West Georgia College, master of education, 1986; West Georgia College, educational specialist, 1990; and University of Alabama, post-graduate students, all but dissertation, 1993-1995.
•Other Interests: Church, technology, regional history, fishing, nature and travel.
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