This month marked the beginning of contract renewals within the school system, and the personnel list for the new junior high school is a familiar one.
Last year, Steve Rhodes, the principal of Norris Elementary School, was named principal of Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School. The school board selected Mr. Rhodes early so that he could be a part of the school from the ground up. Last week, the school board approved transferring Cecil Strong from assistant principal at Thomson High School to assistant principal of ninth grade at TMJHS, and Neal Tam from assistant principal at Thomson Middle to being assistant principal of eighth grade at TMJHS.
Other transfers on the list included Jo Albert-Hill from the media center at TMS to the media center at TMJHS, and Shantell Crocket from Norris Elementary to being the graduation coach at TMJHS.
McDuffie School Superintendent Mark Petersen said the teachers will be transferred from the high school and middle school to the junior high school, which will house eighth and ninth grades, exclusively.
"I'm not gaining any more pupils, so there's no more money," Dr. Petersen said. "So we have to deal with our staff with the money we've got, and we are moving them with their students."
Because the concept of eighth and ninth grades together is new, Dr. Petersen said the ninth graders will continue to participate in extra-curricular activities, such as athletics, at the high school and eighth graders will participate at the middle school.
"Across our nation, eighth and ninth graders face tremendous challenges to meet the social and academic pressures which come along at their age," Mr. Rhodes said. "Here in McDuffie County, we are building a model program to meet our students' diverse needs. ... Personally, I am proud of our potential as a district."
Another familiar name on the personnel list is Nancy Lovelady, who was named the new principal of Norris Elementary. Ms. Lovelady has been assistant principal at the school for three years.
"I'm excited," Ms. Lovelady said. "It's really going to be challenging, though, because Mr. Rhodes has put a lot of good things in place here, and I just want to keep those going."
With 27 years experience in education, Ms. Lovelady returned to McDuffie County after working in Gwinnett County in a school reform program and in Richmond County in administration. She has two adult children. Her son is a student at Augusta Technical College, and her daughter is a school teacher in Columbia County.
Dr. Petersen said a committee made up of Norris Elementary staff members, leadership team members and school council members began in January screening applicants for the Norris job.
"We're tickled to roll her up," the superintendent said. "It's always been our goal to be able to promote from within, and we'll continue to do our best to do that."
Although they are already approved by the school board, the new positions will assume their roles at the beginning of the next school year on July 1. One of Ms. Lovelady's first jobs will be to find her own replacement as assistant principal.
The construction of the new school is contracted to be finished July 1.