Former Georgia school chief John Barge to leave superintendent’s post in McIntosh County

John Barge is leaving the superintendent’s post in McIntosh County.

Former state school chief John Barge can’t escape politics even in coastal Georgia. Barge will step down as superintendent of McIntosh County Schools when his contract expires in June after increasing tensions with a fractious school board.

Speaking on the phone from McIntosh where he was dealing with icy weather Thursday, Barge said the school board has failed to vote on extending his contract despite several closed-door meetings about it. “There has been no vote, but, at the same time, there has been no feedback provided to me so I can’t assume anything. It is too risky.” Barge says he will be looking for a new post and prefers to remain in Georgia.

A Republican who managed to be elected Georgia school superintendent in 2010 without the support of the GOP establishment, Barge forged his own path leading the Department of Education. But he paid a steep price for failing to follow Gov. Nathan Deal and the Republican Legislature in the 2012 battle over the charter school amendment. Barge said he could not support the amendment because it diverted funding from schools struggling with years of state budget cuts.

Frustrated with legislative policies and chronic underfunding, Barge ran for governor in 2014. After placing third in the Republican primary, Barge took the job in McIntosh County Schools in 2015. With about 1,600 students, the district straddles I-95 in southeast Georgia and includes Sapelo Island.

As superintendent in McIntosh, Barge found a political maelstrom and a divided school board. The school board ran afoul of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and its rules required to maintain accreditation, causing the district to receive a dreaded  “under review” designation,  one step removed from accreditation loss. SACS accredits thousands of schools worldwide, including 97 percent of public schools in Georgia.

McIntosh could have its school board removed by the governor and replaced by new members as occurred in DeKalb County in 2013 and in Dooly County in 2016.  As required under state law, the state Board of Education will hold a March 22 hearing on whether to recommend suspension of the McIntosh school board to Gov. Nathan Deal. (You can see the legal documents from the state board’s September hearing on McIntosh here. At that time, the McIntosh board won a continuance.)

The problems in McIntosh predate Barge’s arrival but the school board has continued to flout what SACS and AdvancED consider good governance. According to the Florida Times-Union: “Although AdvancED may have received complaints dating back before Barge ever came to work as superintendent, the most recent of a string of negative developments came in September 2016. That’s when the school board removed Barry Lollis as McIntosh Academy principal and transferred him to the alternative school.”

This case is complicated by the historic friction between Deal and Barge, raising questions about how willing the governor would be to act. But there are concerns among some teachers in McIntosh, one of whom told me, “John Barge is a good man who doesn’t deserve this treatment. He truly cares for the students and has accomplished some pretty incredible things in his short tenure here. My question is why does it take so long to remove a board that has so clearly violated their code of ethics? This needs to be exposed. We have great teachers here and good kids who deserve better.”

If the state board recommends removal of the McIntosh officials and Deal complies, would Barge possibly remain in the district? “I really can’t speculate on that,” said Barge. “To be honest, timing is important so I can’t wait for the state board to make a decision to start looking for a job. That could be a long time.”







Reader Comments 0


Dr.Barge's career arc is proof that "karma" is not just a bunch of new age hooey.The guy seems to have whatever the opposite of the Midas Touch happens to be.

If he took over a pumpkin farm,they'd cancel Halloween.

MaureenDowney moderator

@Astropig Not sure it is a karma; the average superintendent lasts three years, Barge will serve three years. So, his tenure is typical. However, the research shows that effective reform requires stability in leadership. Improvements tend to fall apart with leadership shifts; there is time lost to regrouping when leaders are ousted. Sounds like he has done some smart things for his students. Could be step back in the progress gained when new super comes aboard.


@MaureenDowney @Astropig 

@enDowney @Astropig

Trouble seems to find this guy.

Two things that jump out about him:

1) His old school district in Rome had an opening for his old position when he left the SOS office.He applied.They sent him far,far away.That tells me that maybe he's not as well regarded as he and the media thinks.They knew him probably better than most and said no thanks.(Side note-he applied all over the country and came up empty also.)

2) I think that I read somewhere that McIntosh Co. is one of the smallest school systems in the state by number of students.They have a grand total of four schools.That should afford him the chance to know and be known by the vast majority of students and their families.If he can't generate popular support in such an intimate setting,you have to wonder why.

But the news is not all bad...

He could always run for governor again later this year.I hear that the job's going to be open.


@MaryElizabethSings @Astropig @MaureenDowney

Just stating facts.Just adding to the above narrative to make it a little more complete and contextual.

This guy seems to be a favorite of the left and the media.A little richer understanding of what he's all about never hurts,

Again,he can always file the paperwork and run for his old job or for governor this year.I still have one of his old signs from '14 in my garage,so there's one that he won't have to buy.


Facts can be interpreted in differing ways. In my opinion, your interpretation of the facts surrounding the educational career of Dr. Barge has been tainted by your personal social ideology and by your cynicism.

GA concerned citizen
GA concerned citizen

Why my comments were deleted is not only unfair but border line unethical. For some reason news media never wants to hear from an opposing viewpoint especially when they are correct. But I do appreciate the fact that the article was changed to reflect the state law and state BOE decisions.

GA concerned citizen
GA concerned citizen

Fake news! The BOE can transfer any current employee without recommendation of Superintendant. The BOE just cannot hire new employees.

State BOE 20-2-211 (recommendation statute) only applies to initial hires.

State BOE decision 1986-44 Cantrell vs Bartow County BOE

State BOE decision 1991-25 Stephens vs Troup County BOE


Good luck, ahead, Dr. Barge. You have been a dedicated and courageous educator. I wish you Godspeed.