Local News

June 30, 2013

For several county schools, July means new leadership

New principals announced recently:

• Angela Hargis, Westside Middle School

• Carla Maret, New Hope Elementary School

• Doris McLemore, Valley Point Elementary School

• Stanley Stewart, Coahulla Creek High School

• Wanda Storey, Eastbrook Middle School

As some leadership roles shift throughout Whitfield County Schools, including Coahulla Creek High School where new Principal Stanley Stewart promises academic improvement, one thing seems to be in the forefront: improving state accountability scores.

Several of the leadership changes came a little more than a month after state officials released the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). The CCRPI evaluates the quality of every school in the state on a 110-point scale based on test scores, graduation rates and financial stewardship, among other benchmarks.

This is the first year CCRPI scores were made public by state officials after they opted out of the Adequate Yearly Process system, part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Stewart to make Coahulla Creek ‘more academic’

Stewart said his “bottom line” mentality will improve Coahulla Creek.

That’s because, bottom line, a CCRPI score of 53.6 for a tech-driven school that cost taxpayers $43 million to build is wanting, he said. The state average for high schools was 72.6.

“I remember looking at the high school when they were building it in 2011,” he said. “I knew there was a lot of potential in that. It’s a school that offers a great opportunity. I knew it would be a great opportunity to run it. And now I have a chance.”

Stewart is leaving Westside Middle School where he has been an administrator for 12 years.

Getting kids to perform well on Common Core standards in math and language arts will be the focus of his first year, Stewart said. Common Core is a national initiative that tries to unify education standards in each state.

“I will help teachers find a way to reach as many kids as possible,” he said. “We’ll be hitting the standards. We will hit the nail on the head and make things more academic.”

Not everyone is convinced federal officials know what’s best for education. Several state Republican leaders voted recently to put pressure on state leaders to drop Common Core because they say its too rigid and gives Washington too much control on what students learn.

Stewart said he didn’t necessarily oppose Common Core, adding that he’ll be working hard to do whatever his “bosses” want.

“I have two bosses,” he explained. “The local school board and the (state) Department of Education. I believe what I should do is do what those two people want me to do, while taking care of the kids in the best way possible.

“I think those standards are what my bosses want right now. I think they (standards) teach the things we think prepare students with whatever they decided to do ... until (state officials) do away with Common Core, I will be working to present Coahulla Creek in the best light possible under those standards.”

Stewart said a lot of emphasis was put on technology under former principal Phillip Brown, who resigned in May before the CCRPI scores became public. Superintendent Judy Gilreath said Brown didn’t resign because of the lower than average CCRPI score.

“I think you can excel at both technology and academics without losing one or the other,” Stewart said. “But the CCRPI reflected we need to focus on standards. We will be a data-driven, performance-based school where we benchmark our tests.”

As teachers put emphasis on logging data from testing, it will help administrators better determine where kids need help, Stewart said.

“We will compare different teachers and different strategies to see what is helping students the most,” he said. “I will make sure kids are getting everything they need and are performing well.”

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