Assistant Superintendent Kathryn Collins, who was instrumental in helping McDuffie County schools achieve academic success and recognition, is officially retiring this summer but plans to stay involved with the field of education she loves.
Colleagues say Dr. Collins provided guidance that has helped local schools earn academic accolades in several areas including having one of the finest reading programs in the state.
Dr. Kathy Collins poses behind her desk. The Assistant Superintendent recently announced her retirement.
"She has great leadership, and she was able to pull it all together for the county," said Ed Grisham, former superintendent of schools who worked with her for about seven years.
"She is a visionary," said Janis Hammar, director of Programs for Exceptional Children and Student Services who has worked with Dr. Collins for over 10 years. "She anticipated a standards-based approach from the time she walked in the door."
In her role overseeing curriculum and instruction, Dr. Collins helped develop and implement dynamic programs that were aligned with standards set by the state, resulting in improved test scores.
Dr. Collins is quick to attribute that success to strong support from her staff and an effective leadership team all working toward a common goal.
"Over the years, we have built a professional leadership team that consists of principals and assistant principals, leader teachers and strong support staff. The result is student academic achievement reflected in high achieving schools," she said.
"Rick Warren reminds us in his book The Purpose Driven Life, 'It's not about me' -- and in McDuffie County Schools, 'it's not about individuals' -- it's a collective synergy of the entire staff to make our students successful," Dr. Collins said.
That success was validated with all schools making Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act.
"The fact that all McDuffie County Schools meet AYP and that the four elementary schools are Title I Distinguished Schools is not an accident. The leaders in each of those schools have worked in tandem to insure that student success is an individual accomplishment for each child as well a collective accomplishment," she said.
Dr. Collins helped transform the way the needs of children were addressed through staff development and professional learning.
Now, when educators from McDuffie County attend state and regional meetings to hear new techniques, "We've already done it," Ms. Hammer said.
"She knew that children have learning styles; if one approach didn't work, we would provide something else," Ms. Hammar said.
"We have empowered our staff by keeping them informed," Dr. Collins said. "We work hard to keep them abreast of the latest research and the most effective teaching and learning opportunities, and they work hard to implement and to take advantage of the situations as they are presented to them."
Another area Dr. Collins has excelled is funding, colleagues said.
She helped land millions of dollars in competitive grants for curriculum and instruction -- including the award-winning 21st Century Community Learning Center program -- which have helped sharpen school improvement and provided materials for every student in the system.
Dr. Collins, who started her career as an elementary school teacher, moved up through the ranks in both rural and urban schools in large and small systems. At the middle school level, she discovered her favorite age -- seventh grade -- and her favorite subject to teach -- math.
In addition to teaching, she served as a middle school coordinator, assistant principal and principal before joining McDuffie County as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.
"I love school improvement," said Dr. Collins, who will stay informed of the latest school reform initiatives through her position as president of the Georgia Association of Curriculum and Instruction Supervisors.
In addition, she has considered maintaining her presence in the field of education by teaching at the college level.
Dr. Collins looks forward to family time, and since her husband recently sold his business, they will have more chances to travel and visit with parents, three sons and their wives, and two granddaughters.
"We've never bought buttons and bows," said Dr. Collins, who loves entertaining the two little girls, ages three and six. "We now take full advantage of buying little girl things and look forward to spending more time with them," she said.
In addition, she plans to expand her church work.
"I hope to be more involved in planning the women's ministry in my church and community.
"The Lord has blessed our family greatly," said Dr. Collins, who added, "I don't think I'm retiring, I'm just shifting. The Lord is changing my ministry."