Superintendent of Schools

The superintendent of schools provides executive leadership as the manager of the school districts educational programs. They maintain daily operations, implement all district and board policies, and provide future planning goals.

Alisha Searcy


Richard Woods

Republican, Incumbent

On the issues


What priorities or key issues will you address if elected to this office?

Alisha Searcy, Democrat

My priorities as School Superintendent are school safety, teacher burnout, mental health for students and educators, and designing schools that work for children in the 21st century

Richard Woods, Republican

The Richard Woods campaign did not submit responses to our questionnaire. The response is taken verbatim from the campaign website:

School Safety

  • Expand mental health and SRO funding

  • Provide line-item school safety funding

  • Secure facilities and coordinate best practices

Expand Teacher Pay

  • Expand salary step increases across careers

  • Protect retirement and healthcare benefits

  • Get rid of the “gotcha” teacher evaluation tool

Testing minimum

  • Establish a new federal testing minimum

  • Use diagnostic tools in "off" years to guide learning

  • Identify and reduce redundant local testing local testing

Develop multiple diploma pathways

  • Provide a tailored high school experience

  • Customize pathways for college, technical, or military

  • Graduate with diplomas and acceptance letters

Modernize the K-12 funding formula

  • Achieve a 21st century education for every child

  • Increase transportation funding and recognize poverty

  • Elevate Education Support Professionals

Expand opportunity for every child

  • Support a well-rounded education for every child

  • Expand access to the arts, STEM/STEAM, CTAE, and play

  • Provide “Opportunity Grants” for all schools

Lift our schools - not just label them

  • Provide a fuller and fairer picture of performance

  • Replace oversimplified ratings with detailed public dashboards

  • Highlight opportunities and challenges so schools grow


What key experiences would you bring to this role?

Alisha Searcy, Democrat

I am the only candidate in this race who has served as a state legislator. This is key because the State School Superintendent plays a significant role in the policy making process, especially at the State Board of Education and Department of Education levels. I am also the only candidate who has experience leading a system of schools. Not only have I led schools, I also achieved great results for teachers and students. Given the challenges we have in terms of learning loss, teacher retention, funding our education system, and an overall lack of leadership in our education system, I am uniquely qualified to take on the challenges our state faces.

Richard Woods, Republican

The Richard Woods campaign did not submit responses to our questionnaire. The response is taken verbatim from the campaign website:

Leadership Experience

  • State School Superintendent of Georgia, 7+ years

  • Principal

  • Assistant Principal

  • K-5 Curriculum Director

  • Pre-K Director

  • Home School Director

Classroom Experience

  • Social Studies Teacher, 14 years

  • Department Chair

  • Mentor to new teachers

  • Statewide and regional recognition for teaching strategies

Business Experience

  • Small Business Owner

  • Lead purchasing agent for domestic and international laser company

Burnout and Teacher Shortage

Over half of Georgia’s teachers have expressed some concerns about burnout. How do you plan to improve retention in the teacher workforce and address teacher shortage?

Alisha Searcy, Democrat

  1. Create the Office of the Teacher Advocate. In this office, full-time staff will focus solely on addressing teacher burnout. They will listen to teachers, create partnerships with community and business organizations to provide resources to teachers, and they will ensure teachers are involved in EVERY policy-making process of the DOE. This is my commitment to teachers, and my ongoing dedication to retaining – and then attracting – teachers to Georgia schools.

  2. Work with the legislature to raise the starting salary for teachers across the state to 65k. Teachers should not have to work two jobs, and I am committed to working with the state and local districts to identify the funds to do this.

  3. Address the high stakes testing issue by working to align our testing system with districts so that we aren’t over-testing, which has added too much pressure on educators and students.

  4. Work with the legislature to enact three laws:

    • A law that gives teachers uninterrupted planning time during the school day that cannot be interrupted with staff or other meetings, so that teachers can focus on planning, preparation and collaboration.

    • A law that gives teachers with children time off so they can attend parent-teacher conferences or other school-related activities for their own children; and

    • A law that, by working with the legislature to identify funds for school districts, will offer mental health days for teachers.

  5. Partner with faith, business, and non-profit leaders to create a campaign to restore the level of respect and admiration for the field of education and educators.

  6. Create statewide celebrations and an award system for teachers to show appreciation constantly and consistently for teachers, including an annual event to celebrate teachers across the state for: great subject teaching, relationships with students, going the extra mile, and educational excellence.

  7. Stand up for teachers, as a former state legislator (the only candidate for this office to serve in the legislature in at least 20 years), when I see bills being introduced that will instill fear or frustration in teachers. I will serve as a champion for teachers both in the legislative process and the rule-making process at the state board level. Far too long, teachers have not had a champion serving in these roles.

  8. Provide a training program for principals to teach best practices for leading and managing schools. We know that school leadership impacts teacher retention. I believe developing school leaders who create a supportive and positive environment for teachers will greatly impact teacher satisfaction as well.

I believe that these efforts will significantly address teacher burnout of current teachers as well as change the way we view education and educators. Once we do that, Georgia teachers can feel pride in their profession again, and we will dramatically increase the number of teachers in our pipeline.

Richard Woods, Republican

The Richard Woods campaign did not submit responses to our questionnaire. The response is taken verbatim from the campaign website:

  • Expand teacher pay raises

During the pandemic, I lead the nation in giving all teachers and support staff a one-time $1,000 bonus. Working with the Governor, we’ve delivered on a promised $5,000 pay raise for all teachers.

​Currently, the salary scale is flat for the first three years and last nine years of a teacher’s career. This structure negatively impacts recruitment and retention. If honored with another term in office, I will work with policymakers to expand salary step increases across a teacher’s entire career.

I’ll continue to protect TRS retirement benefits and keep health insurance rates affordable. We cannot raise pay only to see additional pay diverted to rising retirement and healthcare costs.

  • Treat teachers as professionals

I fought to bring about much needed changes to the original TKES and LKES bill – eliminating SLOs (Student Learning Objectives), lowering the weight of high-stakes testing, and reducing the number of observations, while my opponent brags about authoring the original damaging legislation.

Despite measurable improvements, the current evaluation system still demoralizes teachers and doesn't professionalize them. We must move away from a ‘gotcha’ tool to one that truly treats teachers as professionals.

We need a system that supports teachers throughout their careers -- from beginning teacher to teacher leader. We need a system with built-in mentoring and induction supports for those starting in the profession, as well as greater flexibility, autonomy, and leadership opportunities for those who continue to grow in the teaching profession.

Under my direction, the Georgia Department of Education launched a teacher evaluation pilot with the focus on transforming our current model. Once we identify the supports we want leaders to provide to teachers and we define a strong profile for teacher leadership, we can develop a leader evaluation pilot that folds in essential pieces while streamlining the overall requirements of the system.

  • Let teachers teach and cut red tape

Our teachers were called to teach -- not push paperwork or check boxes.

​We must free our teachers from the excessive requirements that pull them away from students and push them out of the profession.

​At the state level, we must streamline processes and cut red tape while getting local school districts to do the same.

Equity in Funding

Do you have a plan for equitable distribution of public school funding, particularly to students with disabilities?

Alisha Searcy, Democrat

We need an overhaul of our entire funding system. We need to focus more on student-based need, not districts, or the needs of adults. Assuring we have adequate funding for our students with disabilities I strongly support fully and equitably funding our students and our school systems, so they provide the resources that students and educators need to be successful. Again, it is why having my experience as a state legislator is so important. Tackling the funding issue requires both leadership and the skills to know how to navigate the legislative process.

Richard Woods, Republican

The Richard Woods campaign did not submit responses to our questionnaire. The response is taken verbatim from the campaign website:

In Georgia, we have a 1985 K-12 funding formula. Our children deserve a 21st century funding formula that supports a 21st century education.

We must modernize the funding formula to meet the moment. Positions like school resource officers aren’t even funded in the current formula. Paraprofessional positions are currently only funded at the kindergarten level; these positions should be expanded through the early grades to ensure better student to teacher ratios and a stronger foundation of the fundamentals for students. School districts only earn $11,000 per bus driver in state funding; funding for all positions need to be evaluated and updated to reflect true costs.

I am the only candidate to release a detailed plan on how to modernize our state’s funding formula.

It's time to modernize our K-12 formula by increasing transportation funding, recognizing poverty, enhancing non-academic supports, expanding Educational Support Professionals, and adjusting funding levels with the rising costs of resources, supports, and personnel.

Meeting the Needs of Diverse Communities

How do you ensure that the public education system is meeting the needs of all Georgia communities - rural and urban, high resource and low resource?

Alisha Searcy, Democrat

I will create the Office of Equity to first get an understanding of where inequities exist. I will work with school districts to help them be able to identify the local policies and decisions that lead to inequities. Then I will provide support and technical assistance to districts, so they have the skills to make decisions that meet the needs of their students. At the state level, I will ensure that funding, and other state level resources are directed in places that need them most. This is a comprehensive plan that requires a change in mindset, policies and practices. I will always be a champion for students who have been marginalized. As an example, one of my big priorities is also to obtain broadband for students in rural areas. The communities have been ignored for too long. I will no longer allow that to happen.

Richard Woods, Republican

The Richard Woods campaign did not submit responses to our questionnaire. The response is taken verbatim from the campaign website:

Whatever a child's zip code, they deserve access to a well-rounded education.

We must establish 'Opportunity grants' for all schools, dedicating funding streams to support and expand opportunities in fine arts, computer science, recess and play, PE, STEM/STEAM, AP, gifted, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE), and world language.

COVID-19 and Challenges in Education

COVID-19 presented a variety of unique challenges to schools. In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges school systems have faced? Do you believe there is a gap in education due to the pandemic? If so, how do you plan to address this gap?

Alisha Searcy, Democrat

Of course, there is a gap in education due to the pandemic. There has been significant learning loss in that students were not provided with high quality instruction, some not at all due to access issues. To add to that, there is a rise in mental health issues that districts have not yet determined how to address. I think the greatest challenge is that districts were left to their own to navigate what is arguably the most difficult time in public education. Sadly, there was no leadership or guidance from the current State Superintendent to provide resources, share best practices, or provide hands on support for districts. This was a tremendous, missed opportunity. If elected, I will assess where districts are, where the student need is, then be hands on in providing resources to districts so they can fill these gaps and rely on the state to be their partner in meeting the needs of students and educators.

Richard Woods, Republican

The Richard Woods campaign did not submit responses to our questionnaire. No information was found on the campaign website related to this question.