COVINGTON -- Livingston Elementary School will start the school year with a principal after all.
On July 15, school principal Wendy Hughes submitted a letter of resignation effective July 31, following a state investigation that resulted in a suspension of her educational certificate due to mismanaging of a state program in 2006 and 2007.
During a special called meeting Tuesday morning, the Newton County Board of Education accepted Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews' recommendation to replace Hughes with Shari Thomas, an assistant principal at South Salem Elementary School.
"She brings a wealth of experience to this position ... (and) a depth of knowledge in teaching and learning that will bring Livingston a wealth of success," Mathews said.
Thomas taught fourth and fifth grade at Livingston Elementary from 1992 to 2007 -- and was Livingston's 1997 Teacher of the Year -- before attaining an assistant principal position at Fairview Elementary School in 2007.
"I'm very excited," she said in a press release. "I taught at Livingston for 15 years prior to going into administration in 2007. When I decided to pursue administration, I left thinking in my mind, if the principalship here ever came open, I would apply for it. I really feel like I'm back home."
Although she's excited about returning to Livingston, she will miss her South Salem family.
"I'm very sad to leave South Salem," she said. "I worked with (principal) Holly (Dubois) and (assistant principal) LaSharon (McClain) to open that school. And, of course, there are children there who I checked on regularly and I'll miss that. Leaving the faculty and the children will be hard, but this is such a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to working with the faculty and children here at Livingston."
Her transition will start immediately, and Thomas expects it to be an easy one, although it's only in a few days.
"We definitely have a lot to do," she said. "But this administration worked very hard and there are lots of things in place already. The schedules and the class roles have already been done. They've definitely made it very easy for someone to come in."
In addition to teaching at Livingston, Thomas previously taught fourth grade at Fairview Elementary and also served as an adjunct professor for Teacher Education at Mercer University from 1997 to 2000. She also taught English Conversation at Han Nam University in Taejon, South Korea, in 1984.
"Shari Thomas is an experienced elementary teacher, administrator and college instructor," Mathews said. "Given her background and depth of knowledge exhibited in her interview, I have no doubt that Livingston Elementary will be well led when it comes to curriculum and instruction, parent involvement and a focus on kids. She knows her stuff."
Thomas earned her bachelor's degree in middle grades education with concentrations in math, language arts and social sciences from Toccoa Falls College in 1985 and a master's degree in elementary education from Clemson University in 1987. She earned her education specialist degree in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in 2007, as well as a gifted education endorsement from Newton County Schools and Griffin Regional Educational Service Agency in 2004 and her Teacher Support Specialist in 1992.
She is a member of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She has also participated on numerous Southern Association of Colleges and Schools review teams and was a member of the Rising Stars Program through Griffin RESA.
NCSS planned to post the South Salem assistant principal position Tuesday and keep it open until it is filled. Usually, NCSS advertises a position for 10 days, but with school scheduled to begin Aug. 6, Mathews wanted to speed up the process.
"We're on a fast track now," Mathews said.