He may be the most hugged man in McDuffie County. Without hesitation, that's what Thomson Elementary School Principal Donald Davis said he would miss the most about his job.
Dr. Davis announced last week that the recently completed school year would be his last as principal. He will possibly take a job with the Georgia Department of Education's School Improvement Division that would keep him local.
In the 13 years that Dr. Davis spent as principal of TES, he has seen many awards come to the school, test scores skyrocket and seven straight years of being named a Title I Distinguished School. He said because of that the timing was right.
"I think things are going very well here at the school, and I've always said that when it came time for me to go, I wanted to go on top,î Dr. Davis said, adding that this was one of the most difficult decisions he has ever had to make. "I think if I head out at this point, I can look back and not be disappointed about anything."
Superintendent of Schools Mark Petersen said leaders like Dr. Davis are difficult to come by, and finding a replacement of his caliber will be difficult.
"That's going to leave a big vacuum," Dr. Petersen said. "It's certainly bittersweet to lose these folks with all that experience and knowledge. I certainly wish them the best, and we'll do our best to fill those shoes."
Dr. Davis began his career in 1974 teaching special education in Jefferson County. After a brief stint in the business world, he returned as a middle school teacher in Columbia County and then ran an alternative school.
Later, he served as an assistant principal at Thomson High and at Glenn Hills. He then returned to McDuffie County to serve as TES principal and has been here ever since.
He said it was the family atmosphere that kept him here so long.
"There were a lot of personal relationships that have been established, and those are the things that have caused me to really appreciate being here at this school," Dr. Davis said.
One teacher who has spent 30 years teaching second grade at TES echoed those feelings and had nothing but compliments about her long-time boss.
"I'm really excited for him, but honestly it will be a great loss for our school," said Carol Farr. "He's just made school a place where you wanted to be because I could share most anything I needed with him, and he always supported me. ...I enjoyed every day that I worked with him."
Of all his accomplishments, Dr. Davis said his greatest success at TES was helping to build a "cohesive family at the school" especially after merging with many members of the Maxwell Elementary faculty years ago.
"That was the foundation which all of the other awards and achievements have come from," he said.
Dr. Davis will be faced with a whole new set of challenges should his new job come through. But he feels his experience at all levels of education will be a great help in dealing with school improvement.
While wishing him future success, Dr. Petersen has begun the process of searching for a new principal to take the reins of TES.
"I'm still reeling from the announcement, trying to figure out what's best for our boys and girls," Dr. Petersen said.
Dr. Davis' last official day will be June 30.
Once Dr. Petersen has shared the departure with all the Board of Education members, he will formulate a plan to search for a new principal. Dr. Davis' successor should start at TES on July 18.