Students at four Bartow County schools and one Cartersville City school will find new people sitting behind the principal’s desk when they return to class in August.
Two Bartow principals moved to other schools within the system; one was promoted from assistant principal; one moved to the central office; and one is new to the district.
The new Cartersville principal came from Bartow’s central office to replace his retiring predecessor.
In April, Woodland High Principal Dr. Wes Dickey was tapped as the first leader of the rebranded South Central Middle, which was renamed Red Top Middle School last month. South Central’s last principal, Tia Windsor, retired at the end of the school year.
Dickey’s replacement, David Stephenson, comes to Bartow after being a teacher and assistant principal at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw for 13 years.
In March, Matt Gibson, Bartow’s executive director of federal programs and professional learning, was tapped to replace retiring Ken MacKenzie as principal of Cartersville Middle School.
Dr. Sharon Collum, who served as principal of Euharlee Elementary for 10 years, has moved to the central office to take over Gibson’s vacated position.
Allatoona Elementary Principal Jim Bishop was transferred to Euharlee to replace Collum, and Cloverleaf Elementary Assistant Principal Teri Marley was promoted to principal of Allatoona.
Even though the new school year hasn’t started yet, Stephenson already has had a sleepless night.
It came the evening he was notified that he’d been approved by the Bartow County School Board as the new principal of Woodland High.
“I found out after the board meeting where I was announced [April 15],” he said. “I didn’t get much sleep that night as I was just so thrilled by the news.”
The former assistant principal/magnet coordinator at North Cobb said he felt “incredibly honored by the opportunity and responsibility that I’d received.”
“From that point onward, I’ve had a hard time thinking of anything other than the opportunities that lie ahead at Woodland High School,” he said.
Stephenson, 47, said the reputation of the school and community was the reason he wanted to be the Wildcats’ principal.
“Woodland’s tradition of excellence covers so many areas of the classic high school experience — advanced academics, excellence in fine arts and athletics, to name a few — but most significant to me was that Woodland’s community is supportive, compassionate and committed to opportunities for all learners to emerge ready for college and career,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for a more fantastic school to lead.”
Since he officially took over on June 11, the Marietta resident said he’s “committed myself to getting to know our staff and school community” by scheduling meetings with staff members.
“They care about their students,” he said, noting he’s already met with more than 30 of them and hopes to meet with all of them by the end of the summer. “Whether they are veteran educators or relatively new to the profession, the common thread is a deep desire to see our students succeed here at Woodland and beyond.”
Stephenson is looking forward to experiencing all of Woodland’s major events for the first time.
“I can’t wait for the ‘firsts’ – the first day of school, the first football game, the first homecoming, band concert and the first graduation, just to name a few,” he said.
As for his plans for the upcoming year, the new principal said the school will “embrace the new schedule and build our collaborative culture to promote student learning.”
“Students and parents will sense the consistency and clarity that this collaborative commitment will generate,” he said.
Stephenson said he will be available to meet freshmen parents at the ninth-grade open house and the parents of upperclassmen at Parent Shadow Night.
A native of Prescott, Arizona, Stephenson earned a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of Arizona, a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University and an education specialist degree in education psychology, with a concentration in gifted and creative education, from the University of Georgia.
He started his teaching career in 1996 and taught middle and high school for six years in Gilbert, Arizona, and two years in northern California before coming to North Cobb in 2006.
He was a teacher there from 2006 to 2011, winning Teacher of the Year in 2011; served as the magnet school coordinator from 2011 to 2015; then remained the magnet coordinator while also taking on the role of assistant principal over scheduling and curriculum in 2015.
Stephenson and his wife, Sharon, who works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, have two daughters, Mireya, 12, and Naomi, 9.
For Marley, moving to her new school is actually returning to her old school.
“I previously worked at Allatoona Elementary as assistant principal and grew to love the students and staff,” she said. “It is a great school, and I look forward to what we can accomplish together.”
The Cartersville resident said after participating in Bartow County’s Aspiring Principals’ Leadership Academy and going through the interview process, she was “invited in for a Tier 3 interview.”
“After the interview, [Superintendent] Dr. [Phillip] Page offered me the position,” she said. “I, of course, was very happy and felt honored to be trusted with such an awesome responsibility. I feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.”
Since officially starting her new job on June 11, Marley said she’s “already been involved in a whirlwind of activities” on the ALES campus.
“I have been individually meeting with teachers to get to know them,” she said. “We've had two days of school-improvement meetings, and I've set up interviews for open positions.”
And so far, the new principal likes what she’s seen.
“I absolutely love the school, and I'm very impressed with the quality of staff we have here,” she said. “I knew some teachers, and others I am just meeting; however, it is apparent that they have a deep commitment and love for their students.”
Marley said she and her guiding coalition have just finished meeting to set up dates for parent engagement activities and other events to “gear up for the coming year.”
“I can't wait for students to get back into the school so I can start developing those relationships and learn more about them,” she said. “After all, school is all about the students and their learning.”
Because she’s been at Allatoona before, Marley said she’s not having an official meet-and-greet before the open house, but parents and students are “welcome to stop by the school to talk with me” prior to that event.
A Michigan native who moved to Florida when she was 8, Marley said she attended college in Indiana and began teaching in 1984 at Kingston Elementary.
Her entire 35-year education career has been with the Bartow system.
She taught fourth and fifth grade at Kingston Elementary for 20 years then transferred to Euharlee, where she taught for two years before becoming the assistant principal. She also has been the AP at Allatoona, Emerson and, most recently, Cloverleaf.
Marley has been married for 36 years and has two grown children, Kimberly and David, and three “precious” grandchildren.
Gibson, 42, switched systems after receiving an answer he’d been seeking.
“The tradition of excellence that the Cartersville City School System represents is truly unique and has always been captivating,” he said. “The opportunity to serve as the principal at Cartersville Middle came at a time when my family and I were praying for guidance. As it always is, God’s timing in opening the door to this position was perfect.”
The former principal of Kingston Elementary and Woodland Middle said Superintendent Dr. Marc Feuerbach set up a meeting with him at the end of the interview process “to inform me that he would be recommending me to the school board for the position.”
“My family and I attended the March 11 school board meeting where I was officially approved,” he said. “It was truly a surreal moment to witness each of the school board members sign the recommendation and then to see the welcoming reaction to the announcement on social media. Excited is the word I would use to describe how I felt – excited to work with the staff and students and excited to be a part of the Canes family.”
The Cartersville resident said his first day on campus was June 10, and the school had its leadership summit and data-disaggregation session.
“Summer school, science camp and facility updates have allowed me to gain a grasp of the operational systems of the school and system while getting to meet some of our great students as well,” he said. “We have a tremendous school and school system with a dedicated staff who work tirelessly to provide a top-notch learning experience for all of our students. I have had the opportunity to meet with each staff member individually, and I am thrilled to work alongside such a high-quality group of educators.”
Gibson said he’s also looking forward to working with the students and community.
“The thing I love most about being a principal is getting to interact with our students in so many different aspects of their learning,” he said. “We have several new events planned, including community literacy opportunities to support our students and families. In addition, our mentor program is an area where I am eager to see our students and community grow together.”
The Chatsworth native said he and his leadership team “hit the ground running immediately” and have been working diligently the past few months to “create a schedule that will allow CMS and our students to focus on learning.”
“As a school, we are concentrating on our instructional practices that impact student learning,” he said. “Our staff is also looking forward to developing and fostering community partnerships that we believe will impact the trajectory of our students lives and, in turn, strengthen our community as a whole.”
While he’s already had a meet-and-greet, Gibson said he and the entire administrative staff will be available to meet parents and students at the school’s Aug. 2 open house.
Gibson earned a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from Reinhardt College, a master’s degree in middle grades science education from State University of West Georgia and a certificate and a specialist degree in administration and supervision from Jacksonville State University.
An educator for 20 years, the new Purple Hurricane leader spent one year in Murray County and 11 years in Douglas County before moving to the Bartow County system eight years ago.
Gibson said his family is “just as excited as I am to be a Cane.”
His wife, Cassie, is a local Realtor and a member of the Cartersville Service League. His son, Luke, will be a sixth-grader at CMS, while his daughter, Reese, will be in the fourth grade at Cartersville Elementary.