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New school year, new beginnings
Students, parents check out new NHS
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School is officially back in session for more than 19,000 students in the Newton County School System, and the 2013-‘14 school year will begin not just with a new superintendent, but with new teachers, new administrators and even a new school building for some NCSS students.

New school building for Rams

Hundreds of students, parents, teachers and faculty attended school open-house sessions Wednesday and Thursday night in preparation for the first day of school today. However, open house at the new Newton High School was a maze of amazement as students tried to track down their classrooms in the new school building.

Lines of vehicles circled the already-filled school parking lots; students and parents hustled toward different doorways searching for the front entrance; and everyone scurried through the hallways looking for classrooms.

NHS sophomore Blake Watkins, who used maps posted in the school hallways to navigate his way to a weightlifting classroom, said the school was "awesome." Another tenth-grader, Murphy Monzingo, said , "It’s still a school to me … but I’m glad they decided to build a new one."

Elissa Morain, Kelsie Burke, Kianni Bourdeau, incoming NHS freshmen who previously attended Clements Middle School, made their way through the long registration lines at Wednesday’s open house.

The three best friends said they were excited to see how their first year of high school would go, but they were already familiar with the school, as they previously paid a visit.

The new two-story high school building, located between Jack Nelly and Crowell roads, sits on 117.7 acres and can accommodate up to 2,500 students.

It includes a 500-plus-seat auditorium; an open commons area entrance; a gym that can accommodate 2,500 spectators; a practice gym; science labs; band and chorus classrooms; and a number of other classrooms.

Classrooms have ViewPath technology, an integrated audio-video system that includes classroom cameras and silent alarms. The system was piloted at the old NHS last year to enhance school security.

The building encompasses more than 380,000 square feet, according to architectural designs from Cunningham, Forehand, Matthews & Moore Architects in Atlanta. It was constructed by McKnight Construction Co. of Augusta for $42.6 million.

New administrators

As top administrative positions were filled at schools this summer, they were also filled at the school systems’ central office.

Samantha Fuhrey, who was the deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction for NCSS, was approved as the NCSS superintendent in May. Former NHS Principal Craig Lockhart was named deputy superintendent of schools, and former NHS assistant principal Shannon Buff was approved as the director of secondary curriculum, instruction and professional development for NCSS in June.

Fuhrey has spent the last couple of months transitioning into her new role, and she said it’s been "really busy" as she has been preparing for her first school year as superintendent. She added that the first day of school is an exciting time for everyone.

"Our bus drivers, school nutrition and custodial teams, teachers, staff, school and district leaders and our central office team are prepared for the school system to have a fabulous first day," she said.

"We [believe] we are on the path to becoming the best. Each and every step we take, beginning on the first day of school, leads us closer to our goal of being the best."

New principals at two high schools

As students at NHS begin the school year with a new school, they also have a new leader. Eclan David was chosen by the Newton County Board of Education in July to serve as NHS principal.

David, who previously served as principal at Carver Middle School in Griffin, said that the first few weeks at NHS have been very hectic.

"It’s busy. It’s been very busy, but it’s going great," he said. "It’s busy for me not only as the new principal, but for everyone. This is new to every single person in the building.

"I’ve met quite a few students, and I’ve been very, very pleased. They really set the tone in the level of expectations from the students. The faculty and staff, they’ve been great."

David has a B.S. degree in elementary education from Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Ala., a M.Ed. degree in educational administration and leadership from the University of West Georgia, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in educational administration from the University of Georgia and expects to graduate next spring.

Alcovy High School also has a new leader in place, Sandra Owens, who was approved by the BOE in May. Owens, who previously served as an assistant principal at Newton High, said settling in at AHS has been "a whirlwind learning experience" that she would not trade for anything.

"This is a new chapter in my life, and I want it to be just as exciting for the students and faculty," Owens said. "Their Alcovy experience should be filled with wonderful memories, but when they depart, they should be independent, capable members of the global community."

"I have met some wonderful staff members, teachers, parents, students, and collaborated with several outstanding and dedicated personnel at the Board of Education. It is different than I expected, but in a positive way," she said. "I am truly blessed to work in such a great community and organization."

Owens holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree in human resources management from Central Michigan University.
She also has an education specialist degree in math education from the University of Georgia, and an education doctorate in teacher leadership from Walden University.

In addition to two new principals, NCSS director of Human Resources Nyree Sanders said several assistant principals were appointed this school year.

Dr. Ryan James was named as an assistant principal at Live Oak Elementary; Carla Peck at Clements Middle; Troy Davis at Indian Creek Middle School; Philip Davidson at Alcovy High; Nikkita Warfield and Chasha Colbert at Newton High; and Allison Chapman at the Newton College and Career Academy.