School board OKs new principal

COVINGTON -- The Newton County Board of Education has approved Dr. Craig Lockhart, currently assistant superintendent for Support Services in Bibb County Schools, as principal of Newton High School.

The school board unanimously approved the recommendation from Superintendent Gary Mathews during its monthly meeting Tuesday night as part of the personnel report. Lockhart will be the permanent replacement for Dr. Roderick Sams, who resigned earlier this month.

"Craig Lockhart is one of Georgia's outstanding leaders for learning at this time," Mathews said in a press release. "Most importantly, he brings a commitment to instructional improvement at Newton High. For him, it is about the learning."

Lockhart, a former Covington resident, has been in education for 13 years -- he has been a middle and high school teacher, an elementary school principal and a middle school assistant principal in counties around Georgia. He was Teacher of the Year in 2001 for DeKalb County Public Schools and was the recipient of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders' Jim Puckett Outstanding Educator of the Year Award for elementary principals in 2009.

"These things aren't given away -- they are very much earned," Mathews said on Tuesday. "It's not an easy task."

Mathews also noted that Lockhart moved a six-year Needs Improvement school to a Title 1 Distinguished School over three years.

"Dr. Lockhart's track record as a teacher and administrator is very impressive on many levels including, most importantly, those related to improving student achievement," Mathews said. "Strong on accountability and building relationships with students, staff and the community, Dr. Lockhart, I believe, has a grasp of instructional matters in such a way as to be of great benefit to Newton High School."

His references also spoke very highly of him, Mathews said.

"Kudos all the way around," Mathews said. "He is a man of high character and high expectations. ... We are very, very fortunate that he wants to work with us."

Lockhart holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Fort Valley State University, a master's degree in educational leadership from Georgia State University and a specialist degree in educational leadership from Argosy University in Florida.

He is married and has three children.

"Newton High is rich in history, tradition and pride," he said in the press release. "I am honored to serve as this school's next principal. I look forward to taking this wonderful school to greater heights. The school's mission is 'Every Child, Every Chance,' and I intend to support that mission to the fullest by working closely with teachers and students in the learning process."

Lockhart will begin at NHS on Oct. 18. Interim NHS Principal Carl Skinner, also director of Testing, Research & Evaluation at NCSS, will continue serving until then.

Sams, who was hired in July 2008, announced his resignation on Wednesday, Sept. 1 during an afternoon staff meeting, citing only a series of personal issues that he would not disclose.