As if in a game of musical chairs, the staff and administration at Thomson Middle School are changing places to fill a vacancy that will be left next year when Assistant Principal Pam Rhea moves to North Georgia. But the occupants of each seat were not left to chance. In fact, two former TMS Teachers of the Year were chosen.
"As a principal, I want to fill the positions with competent people so that when I am not in the building, the school continues to run smoothly," TMS Principal Claude Powell said. "It's nice to bring people into the administration from within because there is the element of awareness."
The current Assistant Principal for Administrative Services, LaTasha Johnson, will be transferred to Mrs. Rhea's position - the Assistant Principal for Curriculum and Instruction for the 2007-08 school year.
"The vacancy will be a difficult one to fill, but I wholeheartedly think Ms. Johnson is capable. ... I don't have any doubt about that. ... She's jam up," Mr. Powell said.
Neal Tam, currently a math teacher at TMS, will transfer to Ms. Johnson's position.
"I'm excited. I've got some big shoes to fill, even though my feet are bigger than Ms. Johnson's. I just want to continue on with what she has started," Mr. Tam said.
Mrs. Rhea said she and her husband are realizing a life-long dream to live in the North Georgia Mountains. A week after they purchased land in North Georgia last October with plans to eventually build a cabin, Mrs. Rhea said her husband received "an incredible offer to purchase a business that is less than two miles from our land."
"So that kind of put everything in fast motion," she said. "He's been there since November, so we weekend romance, and I'm not liking it a whole lot."
Mr. Powell said Mrs. Rhea "has been like my right arm for the last five years." He said she was instrumental in bringing Thinkgate and Testgate into the school and implementing performance standards. Superintendent Mark Petersen said he is sorry to see Mrs. Rhea go, "she is sharp, articulate, and has done a great job for us. We are going to miss her."
The feeling is mutual for Mrs. Rhea. While working at TMS, she said she didn't mind the drive to Thomson from her home in Augusta every day.
"I choose to drive 50 minutes one way to work in a county that's progressive and proactive and that puts the kids first," she said. "I'm going to miss everybody here. From the time I walked in the doors here, even in the interview, it felt like family. And to me, that is what education is about."
Mrs. Rhea will continue to fulfill her contract at TMS for the 2006-07 school year, and will move in the summer when her contract is over. She said she has had three job offers in North Georgia, but hasn't made a final decision.
Ms. Johnson was a teacher at TMS for 12 years and was the school's Teacher of the Year four years ago. As a teacher, she was a team leader, social studies chairperson and a summer school leader. She became the assistant principal for administrative services three years ago.
"I am excited as an administrator (to change specialties) because this gives me the knowledge of how the entire building is operated," she said.
Mr. Tam, who was the school's TOTY last year, has taught for five years. As the AP for Administrative Services, Mr. Powell said Mr. Tam will oversee discipline, custodial duties and the facility.
"I was a little worried that I would miss the classroom. When you enjoy what you do in the classroom, then it's hard to leave it. But I saw this as an opportunity to work with even more kids," Mr. Tam said.
Mr. Powell said he will not be concerned with filling Mr. Tam's teaching position until tomorrow, which is the deadline for renewal of all teachers' contracts. Then he will begin filling all his vacancies.
"To me, there's no better place to work, and no better people to work with than Thomson Middle School," Mr. Tam said.