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Q&A: Get to know South Salem Elementary’s new principal, Dr. Vanshelle Turner
Dr. Vanshelle Turner
Dr. Vanshelle Turner - photo by Special Photo

NEWTON COUNTY – At the Newton County Board of Education meeting on Aug. 15, Dr. Vanshelle Turner was appointed as South Salem Elementary School’s (SSES) principal. Turner previously served as assistant principal at the school.

Turner earned her bachelor’s in early childhood education from Georgia State University, her master’s in educational leadership from Argosy University, her specialist’s degree in innovations in early childhood and her doctorate in early childhood education, both from Brenau University.

Prior to her experience in elementary administration, Turner has taught at each grade level, but found her passion in fourth and fifth grades, specifically, teaching math and social studies.

Turner discussed how her past experience in administration at South Salem helped to prepare her in fulfilling the role of principal with The Covington News and hopes for the school year.

What sparked your interest in education? 

VT: I have always been a learner and wanted to take charge and make a difference in the lives of students and teachers. I started by tutoring at Gateway to College at Georgia Perimeter College and pursued many education degrees to ensure that I was prepared to lead the way.

What has kept you driven in the education field to advance from being a teacher to fulfilling roles at the administrative level? 

VT: After working in many diverse settings – low income, diverse (inclusion), and theme school environments – I was able [to] see academic achievement in all settings with my students. Therefore, I started learning from many impactful leaders and seeking ways to improve my leadership skills. I started as a grade level chair, school improvement team member, instructional coach, culture specialists, MTSS chairperson, parent/student engagement chair, and assistant principal. With all this experience, it has led me to my principalship at South Salem.

How do you think your previous experience of being South Salem’s assistant principal has prepared you for your role as principal? 

VT: Working with master scheduling, pk-5 testing, MTSS/EIP/ESOL/ and third through fifth grades helped me to understand some of the major functions of the building. To that end, with the implementation of unit planning and common formative assessments, as a school, we were able to see [an] increase in two out of three content areas with no decrease in any areas.

What’s your overarching goal for this school year? 

VT: My goal this year is to continue the values and traditions of South Salem. Our theme is: Spartans, Unite! U-Understanding, N-Necessary, I-Innovations, T-Together to E-Experience success. We will work collaboratively to establish a strong culture for professional learning communities to ensure that all students are well rounded and prepared for the future.

What are some more specific things that you’re looking to target and improve? Why? 

VT: As of now, I am looking to engage our SSES families. With over 800 students, we need more parent support and engagement to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the whole child. Therefore, we are reestablishing our PTO to ensure that all of our stakeholders are a part of the SSES family so that we can create meaningful change and positive memories for our students.

What are you most looking forward to as South Salem’s new principal? 

VT: I am looking forward to serving and training. It is important that the leaders lead by example and demonstrate to their staff that they are just as committed to doing the work.

What sets South Salem apart from other schools in Newton County/what makes it special? 

VT: We have the best staff imaginable. [They] show grit, compassion and love for one another. Our students are passionate and eager to learn. Overall, as a Spartan, we are tough and ready to do the work.