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Newton High School principal accepts position at Hall County school

COVINGTON - After eight years in the Newton County School System, Newton High School Principal Joe Gheesling will say goodbye at the end of the school year.

On Tuesday, he announced he has accepted the position as principal at North Hall High School in Gainesville for the 2008-09 school year.

"(The position) was something that came to me. I looked into it, and it felt like a real good situation," said Gheesling, who is serving in his third year as principal at NHS. "My grandchildren live near the area. It's a very good school with a very good reputation."

The Hall County principal position came open in December, when North Hall High School Principal Gary Brown announced his retirement, effective May 31, according to Gordon Higgins, director of community relations for Hall County Schools.

"We had an overwhelming response for the position - over 64 applications," Higgins said. "That's the most we've had in probably the last decade for a principal."

He said the personnel department for Hall County Schools conducted initial screenings of the 64 applicants and narrowed it down to eight finalists, who then participated in a panel interview, which included North Hall High School parents, school staff, personnel and district office employees.

Hall County Schools Superintendent Will Schofield interviewed the final two candidates and made the recommendation to the Hall County Board of Education on Monday to accept Gheesling, who has 11 years of educational experience, as the new principal. Before beginning his educational career in Florida, Gheesling served in the Navy for 20 years as a pilot and commanding officer. He retired at the rank of commander.

Higgins said the superintendent was looking for someone who is a "dynamic individual" and leader and someone who could continue the high community involvement at the school that Brown had developed over the last 10 years.

"(On Monday) at the board meeting, (the board members) unanimously accepted the recommendation," Higgins said.

Gheesling will begin his official duties as school principal June 1, Higgins said.

"I think I'd be a good fit there and be able to contribute," said Gheesling, who served for three years as assistant principal at NHS before becoming principal. "I'm looking forward to new challenges."

He said he will miss the parents and staff members at NHS, but he will especially miss the students.

"We have great kids at Newton; I love our kids," he said. "I feel like a better man after being here."

Gheesling, who lives in Newton County and began in Newton County Schools at Eastside High School as an English teacher eight years ago, said his family plans to eventually move closer to Gainesville. His wife, Vicki Gheesling, is assistant principal at East Newton Elementary School.

Sherri Viniard, director of public relations for Newton County Schools, said the position of principal at NHS hasn't been posted yet and can't be posted until Gheesling's resignation has been approved by the Newton County Board of Education.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.