Samantha Fuhrey has only been in office for a week, but the Oxford resident has plans to go "the extra mile" for her community as the new Newton County School System superintendent.
Fuhrey, who officially took office as superintendent on July 1, said she is deeply committed to the success of the Newton County School System, and noted that the community depends on her to provide a solid, quality education for its students.
In making the school system the best it can be for all students, Fuhrey said she has three key goals:
1) increased parent and community engagement;
2) ensuring that students read at or above grade level by grade three;
3) and providing additional opportunities for students who excel.
Fuhrey was voted in as NCSS superintendent in May and quickly settled into her new role, making key decisions for the central office at the Newton County Board of Education’s June board meeting.
She recommended that the board approve NHS Principal Craig Lockhart as deputy superintendent of schools, and Assistant Principal Shannon Buff as the director of secondary curriculum. Both were unanimously approved by the BOE.
"With the addition of Dr. Lockhart and Mrs. Buff to the central office team, I think that we are well on our way to propelling the school system to be one of the best in the state," Fuhrey said.
Because she has worked with the central office, school leaders, teachers and support staff for the past 12 years, Fuhrey said, no one knows the school system like she does, which is why she believes she is the best person for the job.
"I have held a variety of positions within the system, from assistant principal to my current role — as a result, I am deeply knowledgeable about the system — from the work that goes on in school building to the work of the central office team.
"Our efforts are laser-focused, and we are seeing incremental improvement and tremendous growth in students’ achievement," Fuhrey said. "Now is not the time for a deviation from our current strategic framework."
Fuhrey, whose daughter Eva attends school in the NCSS, believes that living in the community and having a child in the school system drives her commitment to making Newton County Schools the best that they can be.
"I have a vested interest in the success of the school system," she said. "It’s important that she (Eva) experiences a quality education, and I believe the same about my neighbors’ children as well. If it’s not good enough for my daughter, it’s not good enough for your children, either."
Regarding her key goals, Fuhrey said, "It has become increasingly more important to engage our parents and community in such a way that they know what they can do to support our children and our schools.
"You don’t have to look very far to find the research that demonstrates how important parents are to the educational process. So, engaging the community and parents in meaningful, productive ways would be an enhancement to our work."
While the district has "worked feverishly" over the last few years to post improvements in test data, it hasn’t emphasized early literacy, she said.
"We will look closely at our K-2 students to ensure that as they exit second grade they are reading at or above grade level, Fuhrey said.
"Children through grade three are ‘learning to read,’ but as they enter grade four, they are ‘reading to learn,’’ there is a difference.
"Finally, we will work to provide students who are excelling with additional opportunities to enhance their knowledge and deepen their studies. Our strategic framework reflects a commitment to adding value to students who excel as it requires that we answer the question of, ‘What do we do for students who have learned what has been taught?’’’ Fuhrey said.
"It is imperative that we provide appropriate challenges for these students so that they are required to ‘stretch’ their thinking and grow, educationally, at high rates."
Fuhrey said in an effort to continue the transparency demonstrated under just-retired superintendent Gary Mathews’ leadership, she intends to send out "The Month in Review" notes about what’s going on in the school system; host interactive, informational meetings throughout the year; and continue informing the community through social media platforms.
Though she said she will miss Mathews’ leadership, she is thrilled about the possibilities and the future of Newton County schools.
"I have been in the education business for over 20 years, and my focus has remained the same from the onset of my career — the students," Fuhrey said.