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Business, community leaders act as principals
Keith Ellis, chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners, stands with JrROTC students at Newton High School as he serves as their principal for the day. - photo by submitted photo /The Covington News

Top executives and business leaders traded careers for a day Tuesday as they acted as elementary, middle school and high-school principals in Newton County schools.

Twenty-two community leaders shadowed principals during the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce’s "Principal for the Day" program. Local leaders were on school grounds before classes began, some as early as 7 a.m., greeting students and teachers as they arrived for the day.

At Veterans Memorial Middle School, Teri Goodman, vice president of the Bank of North Georgia, shadowed Principal James Peek as Peek observed teachers and students in their classes, conducted evaluations for new teachers, and greeted students as they walked to their classes. Goodman said she now believes she knows the entire layout of the school.

"The behind-the-scenes has been amazing," Goodman said. "It’s almost overwhelming to think about all the responsibilities Mr. Peek has. He’s responsible for making sure every student is learning."

Goodman said what she enjoyed most was learning about teaching strategies. In one classroom, she said, students practiced cooperative learning as they worked with classmates.

"It’s pretty cool to be able to see that," Goodman said.

Peek said it sends a positive message when community leaders visit schools because, "We’re in this together." He explained that leaders visiting schools helps to build relationships with community partners.

From visiting classrooms to learning about instructional practices, many of the leaders said they were inspired and learned a great deal about the accomplishments and challenges in the Newton County School System.

Program participants met at the Newton County Board of Education office for lunch and discussed their experiences as principals.

Jonathan Paschal of Smart Growth Newton County visited Livingston Elementary. Paschal said he learned that teachers in elementary schools now teach every subject, and he was surprised to learn how often NCSS students transfer into and out of different schools.

After visiting Cousins Middle School, Mark Ross of Right at Home suggested better marketing of the school system and a push for more parental involvement in schools.

"We are part of the equation to make sure they (students) have a good outcome," Ross said.

Bill Loeble, chief operating officer at Beaver Manufacturing in Mansfield, said that while acting as principal at Alcovy High School, he was impressed by the dedication of principal Sandra Owens to the school and the student involvement in classrooms.

Loeble said he enjoyed Owens’ philosophy: "’I want the students to go home exhausted, not the teachers.’’’

Many other leaders praised the use of technology in classrooms to help engage students in learning; teachers’ and administrators’ ability to multitask during the school day; and the countless programs and initiatives at various schools. Larry Perry of Honda of Conyers, who visited Indian Creek Middle School, said what really opened his eyes was the affection that administrators and teachers had for students.

"Don’t ever think these people don’t care, because they do," he said.

James Johnson, director of existing industry and workforce development for the chamber, said this was the third year of the "Principal for the Day" program, which he said will be held again next year. NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey presented certificates to participants after they shared their experiences.

"The best school systems have strong leaders, strong employees, and a strong support system from the community," Fuhrey said. "We have an obligation to see that they (students) get the very best."