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Fuhrey named finalist for 2020 National Superintendent of the Year
Samantha Fuhrey

COVINGTON, Ga. — Newton County's own 2020 Georgia Superintendent of the Year was named a finalist for the National Superintendent of the Year this week.

The School Superintendent's Association announced Newton County Schools Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey was one of four finalists for the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year. The other finalists are Gustavo Balderas, Eugene (Oregon) School District 4J; Michael Nagler, Mineola (New York) Public Schools; and Jeffery Smith, Hampton (Virginia) City Schools. 

“It is quite an honor to represent Georgia, the Newton County School System and community as a national finalist for Superintendent of the Year,” Fuhrey said in a statement. “I would not be in this position without our dedicated school system team, our hardworking students and our supportive community. Together, we have made strides to ensure that we achieve our vision that all students are well-rounded and prepared for the future. 

"I consider this an honor to be shared with our NCSS team, students, families and our community partners. Newton County is truly a special community that supports its public school system. As a result, our students have benefitted from and have shown time and time again that they can compete with their peers at the regional, state and national level. I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly acknowledge the tremendous support I receive from our school board.  

"Together they are a fantastic team that puts the children of our district first in every decision they make. Not all school superintendents are so fortunate to work with such an amazing group of men and women. They truly want what’s best for our students and employees.”

Shakila Henderson-Baker, chairwoman of the Newton County Board of Education, said the board was "absolutely excited" that Fuhrey's "leadership, commitment to public education and innovative practices have gained recognition nationally."

“Her leadership for learning and her implementation of programs in our district have been centered around national topics that have impacted school systems everywhere," Henderson-Baker said in a statement. "This has not only helped us to be proactive versus reactive, but it has also brought attention to our school district nationally on platforms like CNN and at national educational conferences. Her drive to be innovative and a forward thinker is also one of the reasons her peers from other districts respect her and seek out her guidance. 

Henderson-Baker added, "I spoke with a superintendent in another district recently at a conference about this and his response was, ‘When they ask she’s always willing to assist them.' I think of Mrs. Fuhrey as a great leader because a leader at all times helps their team to be successful, but a great leader assists and develops others around them to be great leaders and when that happens success becomes natural. We are so thankful to have a great leader like Mrs. Fuhrey!”

Fuhrey is in her seventh year as superintendent for Newton County schools. As the first female school superintendent in county history, she has received six contract extensions from the Newton County Board of Education. 

In 2016, Fuhrey was awarded the GSSA President’s Award. She also recently received the Distinguished Alumni Award from Marywood University in Dunmore, Pennsylvania.

Fuhrey previously served as the deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Newton County schools. She has extensive leadership experience at the executive level as she previously served as the executive director for secondary education, the director of secondary education and the director of professional learning for Newton County schools. 

Before becoming a district administrator, Fuhrey was the principal of Indian Creek Middle School in Newton County from 2005 to 2008 after having been promoted from assistant principal, a position she held from 2001 to 2005.

Prior to her employment with Newton County Schools, Fuhrey worked for the DeKalb County School District as an assistant principal and an English teacher.

Fuhrey earned her Bachelor of Science degree in secondary English from Marywood University in 1991 and her master’s degree in educational leadership from State University of West Georgia in 2000. She added an education specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Georgia College and State University in 2006. 

The National Superintendent of the Year finalists will have an opportunity to meet the national education community during a press conference on Thursday, Jan. 9, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The conference will begin at 3 p.m.

The National Superintendent of the Year program, now in its 33rd year, is open to all U.S. superintendents who plan to continue in the profession, according to the AASA press release. The program also honors international school superintendents. The applicants were measured against the following criteria:

  • Leadership for learning – creativity in successfully meeting the needs of students in the school system
  • Communication – strength in both personal and organizational communication
  • Professionalism – constant improvement of administrative knowledge and skills, while providing professional development opportunities and motivation to others on the education team
  • Community involvement – active participation in local community activities and an understanding of regional, national and international issues

A $10,000 college scholarship will be presented in the name of the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year to a student in the high school from which the superintendent graduated, or the school now serving the same area, according to the release.

Rob Scheinerman, CEO of AIG Retirement Services, said it was an "honor" to congratulate the four finalists "who mean so much to the school districts and communities they serve."

“These outstanding educators share a passion for students and have helped thousands of children realize their potential," Scheinerman said in a statement. "AIG Retirement Services is proud to co-sponsor this program as we pay tribute to school district leadership.”  

Paul G. Osland, president of First Student, a student transport company, said the four superintendents represented "the gold standard in leadership, excellence in public education and raising the academic standards in our country."

“On behalf of the 5 million passengers we transport to and from school every day, we congratulate the finalists for the 2020 National Superintendent of the Year," Osland said in a statement. "We are honored to partner with AASA to celebrate the extraordinary contributions of these four leaders as they help shape our tomorrow.”

Daniel A. Domenech, AASA executive director, called the four finalists "champions for children."

“This announcement represents an opportunity for AASA to recognize the tremendous work and outstanding leadership carried out by four ambassadors of public education who I would refer to as ‘champions for children,’” Domenech said in a statement. “The National Superintendent of the Year program celebrates both these education thought leaders and the critical role public education plays in our society. We are grateful to AIG Retirement Services and First Student for supporting our program.”

The 2020 National Superintendent of the Year will be announced during the AASA's National Conference on Education, held Feb. 13-14 in San Diego.