The Newton County Board of Education has named Samantha Fuhrey, a current administrator in the Newton County School System, as its next superintendent.
The board voted 3 to 2 to approve Fuhrey during its meeting Tuesday.
Board member Jeff Meadors made the motion to approve Fuhrey as superintendent, with a second by BOE member Shakila Henderson-Baker.
BOE chair Abigail Coggin joined the approval vote.
Voting no were board members Almon Turner and Eddie Johnson.
Audience members stood and applauded the BOE’s decision.
Fuhrey was tearful and smiling as she said thank you to those who stood in line to congratulate her.
"I am delighted and honored to have been selected and I cannot wait to continue the progress and the work that we have begun," Fuhrey said after being appointed. "I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our students, for our school system, for our teaching staff and our administrators and I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead."
Board members chose Fuhrey over two other finalists: Samuel Light, superintendent of the Illini Bluffs Community Unit School District #327 in Glasford, Ill.; and Noris Price, deputy superintendent for the Clarke County School District in Athens.
She is the first female superintendent of Newton County Schools, which Fuhrey said was indeed an honor.
Before Fuhrey was approved, Johnson tried to make a motion to approve Price as superintendent.
However, because Meadors’ motion to approve Fuhrey was already on the floor, the board had to vote on that measure, which was approved 3 to 2.
Despite the split vote, Fuhrey said she knows the entire board will back her.
"I know our board — regardless of what decisions were made — they are here to support me as I am them. I have worked with these folks for a long time as a member of our community, so I know that you will see great things from us as a team,’’ Fuhrey said. "I am very excited about the opportunity."
As for being appointed superintendent from within the school system, Fuhrey said that she is an example of how working hard for a school system pays off in the long run.
"It demonstrates that hard work, dedication, commitment, support of those around you and the leadership of others really makes a difference," she said. "I would not be here were it not for all of the folks I have worked with over the last 20 years. I have had great teachers."
BOE members met in executive session for three days in early April to name the top three superintendent candidates, after 34 applicants up for the position were reviewed by the board. However, after a 14-day waiting period by law, and a few weeks, the board made the much-anticipated decision.
According to some board members, Fuhrey was chosen because of her experience with the NCSS, which some thought was necessary to continue the school system’s path of improvement.
"This was a very tough decision, but, I think in order to see progress really make its mark, you have to kind of know what’s going on," said Shakila Henderson-Baker. "You have to be somebody who knows what’s going on, who believes in it, who’s vested in it, and I hope to continue to see that progress."
"I’ve heard so much input from the community and from the students themselves," said BOE chair Abigail Coggin. "I just feel that we are moving forward, we are on the right path, we’ve got proven results and right now we don’t need change.
"We need to let Mrs. Fuhrey take the lead, and have us progress even more."
In an email, outgoing superintendent Gary Mathews echoed what board members said during the meeting.
"I am certain that still more progress will find our public schools in the years ahead given Ms. Fuhrey’s long-time commitment to the community and school system."
Though Turner voted against approving Fuhrey, he also praised Fuhrey after the board’s decision.
"I know everybody has been on pins and needles as to who our next superintendent is going to be. We went through a process, and the process was done and I’m the first to say that congratulations to Mrs. Fuhrey," Turner said. "I will do everything and anything I can do to support you to make sure that we continue to make the progress that we have made over the years."
Fuhrey, 44, has served as deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction for NCSS for the past year, overseeing a staff of 1,000 teachers and administrators.
Prior to that, Fuhrey served as the executive director for secondary education, the director of secondary education, and director of professional learning for Newton County Schools.
She also served as the principal and assistant principal of Indian Creek Middle School.
Before working with Newton County Schools, she worked for the DeKalb County School System as an assistant principal and an English teacher.
Fuhrey has a bachelor’s degree in secondary English from Marywood and a master’s degree in educational leadership from State University of West Georgia.
She also holds an education specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Georgia College and State University.
Mathews will retire June 30, at the end of the school system’s fiscal year. Mathews said Fuhrey will take on her new role on July 1.
Fuhrey said she believes it will be a smooth transition, being that she is next door to the superintendent’s office.
Fuhrey, her husband Bill and 8-year-old daughter Eva, who attends school in the NCSS, live in Oxford.