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Official: Brad Bryant to be interim schools' chief

ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue plans to name state Board of Education member Brad Bryant as interim school superintendent, an official familiar with the decision said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement has not been made, said Perdue will make the formal announcement Wednesday. Bryant is expected to take over when Superintendent Kathy Cox leaves office at the end of the month, serving the remaining six months of her term.

Bryant also will run as an independent candidate with Perdue's backing in the race for state schools superintendent, the official said. The Republican party was left in the lurch when Cox announced last month she was leaving her job early and would not seek re-election, even though the filing deadline had passed to run in the July 20 state primary election.

Bryant could not immediately be reached for comment.

Educators and others praised Perdue's selection of Bryant, who is well respected in education circles and has long been involved in Georgia education.

"Brad should be a steady hand on the wheel during very challenging times," said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. "Having served on our state board for several years now, he has the benefit of organizational memory regarding recent state board deliberations and actions."

Bryant, who was named to the state board in 2003, served on the DeKalb County school board for 12 years -- acting as chairman of the board for seven. He has also been the president of the Georgia School Boards Association and president of the National Association of State Boards of Education.

In 2008, Bryant was tapped by Perdue as one of two liaisons between the state and the troubled Clayton County school board when the suburban Atlanta district was in danger of losing its accreditation.

"Brad Bryant certainly has the experience and leadership skills to perform the duties of the state school superintendent in an outstanding manner," said Steve Smith, superintendent of Lowndes County Schools and president of the Georgia School Superintendents Association. "He commands the respect of board members, superintendents, teachers and his constituents."

Cox is stepping down June 30 to become the chief executive officer of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute, a new Washington-based group aimed at helping states in reach "Race for the Top" goals. Her sudden departure from office has split the superintendent's race wide open, abandoning the state Republican party with two candidates who have little name recognition and even less political standing.

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Online:

Georgia Department of Education: http://www.gadoe.org