COVINGTON, Ga. - October is National Principals Month. The Covington News thanks all local school principals for the important work they do.
National Principals Month is sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and the American Federation of School Administrators for the purpose of recognizing and honoring the work of K-12 principals.
To learn more about that work, The Covington News recently talked with Joy Antone, principal for Clements Middle School, and Shannon Buff, principal for Newton High School.
Each had different reasons for why they wanted to become principals, though both set their sights on the job early in their careers.
“You don’t choose leadership, it chooses you,” said Buff. As a young teacher at Newton High, she became concerned about a student whose family had been displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. She observed that the student was struggling economically and academically. When she asked an administrator if there was something the school could do to help, the reply was “We cannot help everyone.” Unhappy with that response, Buff decided she needed to be in leadership to support teachers and students.
Prior to becoming principal last July, Buff served within the Newton County School System (NCSS) as a teacher, department chair, assistant principal, and district-level director for secondary education.
“It’s just always been part of my family,” said Antone. “It was just natural for me to continue my education.” One uncle was a high school principal; an aunt was an elementary school principal. Her mother was a high school business education teacher and later a technical college program director; her father a middle school teacher.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in middle-grade education, she pursued and was eventually awarded masters and specialist degrees in administration and leadership. Prior to her appointment at Clements Middle School in 2010, Antone was a middle school teacher in Washington County and later served as assistant principal for an elementary school and then principal for a middle school in Peach County, Georgia.
When asked to summarize what a principal does, Buff said “No day is the same” and Antone replied, “We wear a thousand hats.” The job is varied and challenging. According to the NCSS job description for principals, they are responsible for overseeing curriculum, assessment, and instruction; data analysis and process improvement; the professional development of teachers and staff members; setting the general tone of the school with regard to internal and external relations, climate, and ethics; performance improvement and change; budgets and operations; as well as “other duties and responsibilities as assigned.”
Antone and Buff see their service to students and teachers as the best part of their jobs.
“The greatest feeling I have had is to defeat the odds,” said Antone. “A lot of kids come with so many issues these days that I never even thought about as a kid. We sometimes have kids who are two or three years behind or kids who come with a lot going on. Being able to see those kids grow significantly; being able to do that, to defeat the odds is the greatest feeling. Especially when people don’t think you can.”
She added, “Being able to see teachers thrive and flourish and grow and create that classroom where the students are really engaged and excited about learning, that’s really exciting. Because to me the most important factor in school is that teacher in the classroom. I have to do my best to support what they do and to set them up for that climate and success.”