Education

Georgia’s School Turnaround Chief: Collaboration Is Key To Success

Eric Thomas, the state's first chief turnaround officer, has targeted 20 Georgia schools for turnaround. No metro Atlanta schools have been included yet.
Eric Thomas, the state's first chief turnaround officer, has targeted 20 Georgia schools for turnaround. No metro Atlanta schools have been included yet.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

Last fall, Georgia hired Eric Thomas to be the state’s first chief turnaround officer. Lawmakers created the job through House Bill 338, also known as the First Priority Act.

Before he became Georgia’s Chief Turnaround Officer, Eric Thomas led school turnaround efforts all over the U.S. while working at the University of Virginia. (Courtesy of Georgia Department of Education)

The legislation provides support for low-performing schools. It was Republicans’ second attempt to address those schools after voters rejected a bill that would have let the state take over schools it considered “failing.”

The Governor’s Officer of Student Achievement has issued a list of 104 schools eligible for turnaround.

In January, Thomas identified 11 of those schools to work with. All of them are in central and south Georgia. In June, he tapped nine more in Augusta, Savannah and Dawson County. The majority of schools on GOSA’s turnaround list are in metro Atlanta.

Thomas hasn’t ruled out working with those schools in the future, but says he doesn’t want to ‘force marriages.’ He believes collaboration is key to a successful turnaround strategy.

In an interview with WABE, Thomas explains the work his department has done so far, and the work ahead.

Extended interview