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New school chief listening, learning
Forsyth County School Superintendent Jeff Bearden, left, has been visiting various campuses around the county to get to know faculty and students. He stopped by Forsyth Central High School on Tuesday. - photo by Micah Green

FORSYTH COUNTY — The new superintendent of the Forsyth County school system is quickly getting up to speed on the district’s 35 schools.

Jeff Bearden, previously superintendent of Rome City Schools, started in Forsyth on Sept. 2. Over the past three weeks, he has been visiting various campuses to do “a lot of listening and a lot of learning.”

“I’ve had the chance to get into 15 or 16 of our schools now,” Bearden said. “I’m trying to visit a couple schools every single day until I get into every one of them.”

While he hopes to bring experience to the system, Bearden said he isn’t going to try to immediately change anything in what could be “the best school system in the state of Georgia.”

“I’m not coming in armed with any brand-new initiatives, because I don’t think our school system needs any new initiatives,” he said. “I’m not really coming in here to bring something new. The board of education didn’t hire me to come in and fix something. It wasn’t broken. It’s an outstanding school system.”

Bearden succeeded Buster Evans, who left Forsyth in July after nearly seven years to become assistant commissioner of education with the Department of Corrections.

Former Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter, a longtime Forsyth resident, served as interim school chief between Evans and Bearden.

Prior to serving in Rome, Bearden served for two years as superintendent of Fayette County Schools, a system to which Forsyth often is compared.

For his new post, Bearden said the short-term goal is to learn about the challenges facing the school system, which boasts some 42,000 students, and community and proceed from there.

“My goal over the next three months is to do what I’ve been doing for the last three weeks, meet as many people as possible, learn as much as I can about the community and the school system, learn what really our strengths are,” he said. “ … Then take all of that information and start really putting together a plan for the future.”

While the schools aren’t cookie cutters, there are some similarities, according to Bearden.

“The theme has been the same — you have outstanding schools with a strong sense of community, a strong sense of family, a strong sense of purpose and it’s incredibly impressive,” he said. “The schools are … all very, very high achieving. It’s not only impressive, it’s very inspirational.”

Bearden said he and his wife have been enjoying the county and its dining, shopping and entertainment options.

“It’s a very hospitable place to live. People are very friendly here,” he said. “We’re finding it to be an outstanding place to live and work.”