Allison LaRue will definitely have a story to tell her two young daughters one day.
The only new principal in either Bartow County school system for the upcoming year, LaRue can share her experiences of moving into her new first-time position during the coronavirus crisis with Mallory, 3, and Olivia, 1, when they're older.
"Transitioning into the role of a principal during a pandemic is something I will never forget," she said.
The former assistant principal at Clear Creek Elementary was promoted to principal of Kingston Elementary March 30 after Philena Johnson resigned from the position in January.
"I have always wanted to be an educator, and in my experiences in administration, it became clear that I wanted to work toward being a principal," she said, noting she’s entering her 11th year as an educator. "When this specific position became available, I knew I had to apply. I am thrilled to have been extended the opportunity to work at such a wonderful school."
After an "intensive interview process," LaRue, 33, said she met with Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page in late February and was offered the position.
"I was thrilled," she said. "I couldn’t have been happier."
Serving three years as an AP, LaRue took the next logical step in her quest for a principalship by enrolling in last fall's second cohort of the Aspiring Principals Leadership Academy, conducted by Deputy Superintendent Dr. David Chiprany, Chief Leadership and Learning Officer Clint Terza and Page.
"The information and experiences from the Aspiring Principals Leadership Academy were invaluable when it came to preparations for interviewing for a principal position to actually transitioning into that role," she said. "It was a very unique opportunity to connect with Dr. Page, Dr. Chiprany and Mr. Terza as well as colleagues on the same path. The insight and education about school leadership was important, but what I found to be most valuable were the shared experiences and open discussions. We were able to discuss what was going on in schools and get different perspectives outside of what we may see in our own buildings."
When she took over in March, the Monroe native began trying to get acquainted with her staff in the middle of a global pandemic.
"At the start of my transition, I was working with the staff through the extended closure," she said. "I met with everyone via [Microsoft] Teams initially. I was finally able to meet most of the staff face to face during post-planning. It was great to finally make an in-person connection with people I had begun to build relationships with."
While she’s been interacting with her staff members in an “unconventional way,” LaRue said there’s “no question that they are phenomenal.”
“Everyone at KES has welcomed me with open arms and have stepped up to help in any way possible, especially during the extended closure,” she said. “I am honored to be able to work alongside such an amazing staff.”
Now, LaRue, who spent her entire 10-year career at CCES before moving to Kingston, said she is working with county and local leadership "as plans are developed for the reopening of schools" in August and looking forward to getting students in the building for her first year as their principal.
“I cannot wait to meet the students,” she said. “I was able to meet a few as they dropped off laptops or picked up their belongings, but I can’t wait for the students to be back in the building so I can get to know them. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to meet parents and other community members as well as work in the building with the staff.”
During her first full school year, LaRue said she plans to “take time to get to know the KES community.”
“This will be a difficult time navigating all of the uncertainties so I want to make sure the staff, students and parents receive timely information in addition to my support through these times,” she said. “I also want to continue to work through the professional learning community process with Kingston to ensure high levels of learning for all students.”
The new principal, who lives in Cartersville with her husband, Michael, and their daughters, said official plans for a meet and greet with students and parents before the school year starts haven’t been made yet, “but it is definitely something I plan to do.”
While Kingston is the only school bringing in a new principal, several schools in Bartow County and Cartersville will be getting new assistant principals.
In the Bartow County system, Ellen Mooney has replaced LaRue as the new AP at Clear Creek.
At Adairsville Middle School, Sarah Callaway took over as assistant principal after Suzi Lance moved into the new learning support specialist position at AMS.
Stephanie Meadows became second-in-command at White Elementary after Assistant Principal Rebecca Champion resigned.
Adairsville High lead special education teacher Amber Benefield was promoted to associate principal at AHS after Dr. Venita Bruton retired.
In Cartersville, Beth Glover moved from Bartow’s central office to become assistant principal at Cartersville Middle after Dr. Tharis Word accepted a newly created AP position that will split his time between the primary and elementary schools.