The 2006-2007 school year was a rewarding one for McDuffie County. In the midst of having a teacher named in the top 10 across the state as Teacher of the Year, receiving District Accreditation status and ending with a successful graduation ceremony, the school system just received one more award to add to the list.
In a press release from the Georgia Department of Education, Thomson Middle School Principal Claude Powell was named a 2007 High Performance Principal.
"I just keep focusing on what's good for the children and putting the achievement and the academic excellence of these children at the forefront...that's just part of my job," Mr. Powell said. "After it comes to past, and you get some recognition for it, you just think 'golly, I'm just doing my job.'"
The High Performance Program was established by the 2006 General Assembly to recognize principals with proven records of improving student achievement. According to material from the GDOE, the driving force behind attracting quality teachers to a school and creating a culture of learning and respect in the school environment is the leadership of the school principal.
"Additionally, the General Assembly found that teachers consider school leadership to be one of the most important factors in creating good working conditions... and the most effective in improving and maintaining academic success of its students," the report states.
But Mr. Powell thinks the credit goes the other way.
"I'm extremely excited to say the least. Any good leader is only as good as the people he works with," he said. "Certainly I am thrilled to have this honor bestowed upon me, but if it had not been for the efforts of the faculty and the staff who work in the fox holes every day, this honor couldn't have been given to me."
To qualify, the middle school had to have an increase of at least .5 standard deviation in scores over the predicted score in four of five tested content areas on the eighth grade Criterion Reference Competency Test.
The program provides grant funding to use as an incentive to attract High Performance Principals by offering a one-year salary supplement of $15,000 to those who move to a Needs Improvement School.
"We don't want Mr. Powell to do that," Dr. O'Neill said. "The state is really saying he is a good leader... it is quite lucrative and it would be a personal challenge to go into another school and have a major impact like he's had here."
Mr. Powell said he has been in education "for a long time, for 36 years," and in administration for 12 of those years.
"If you don't love the kids and the people that you work with and the people you work for, then you can get burned out very easily," Mr. Powell said. "But I'll still be going strong for a while anyway."
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