Mansfield Elementary School Principal G.W. Davis sits in the first-grade classroom at the school -- the same one he sat in when he attended the school as a young child. The chalk board and the green cabinet are original to the room. The book he's holding, "Chicken Little," is one that he would have read when he was in first grade. -Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- Mansfield Elementary School Principal G.W. Davis is getting all of the hugs that he can get from students this month -- he will retire at the end of this school year, so next year, he doesn't expect to get as many.
"Sometimes I have to avoid being out in the halls because of all the hugs you get," said Davis, who has been principal at Mansfield for 19 years and assistant principal when Sharp was a middle school for five years before that.
He said his retirement is bittersweet. He decided to retire this year due to health reasons -- he recently had back surgery and needs knee surgery too.
"From the neck up, I didn't want to retire," Davis said. "But to do this job right, you really do need to be physically fit."
Looking back, he said he is very fortunate to have worked at Mansfield, the same place he attended school from first through eighth grades in a time when middle schools didn't exist.
"I can still go sit in my first-grade classroom," he said. "It's been a treat, and I've been honored to have this opportunity."
He enjoys living in the town of Mansfield -- a place he's lived his whole life and where he sees school families in the grocery store and other local places. Being at the school for nearly 20 years, he now has students in his school that are kids of other students he's had over the years.
"Some families here, I can identify four generations," he said. "And we have a good track record -- doctors, lawyers, bankers, school administrators. They are successful in life and great parents. I really take a lot of pride in that because if you can teach people to be good and loving parents, that's better than teaching them to be a doctor."
He said over the years, technology has transformed the classrooms -- he expects many books to be electronic in the near future. Greater accountability and more high-stakes testing also have put more stress on administrators, teachers and even students, he said.
In the fall, when the rest of the staff is returning to school, he said he will miss "the people" of the school the most.
"The parents are great, the teachers and staff are great, and the kids are precious," he said. "I'm really appreciative, and I really want to thank the Newton County School System and the whole community for letting me work with their children."
NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said Davis will be missed.
"G.W. Davis is an administrator's administrator. He is poised, passionate, personal and, at all times, professional," Mathews said. "He leads for learning and what's in the best interest of students and staff. He believes in public education and he knows what schools are ultimately for -- the betterment of the learning and lives of students."
After his retirement, Davis hopes to be involved in more missionary work for his church, Mansfield Baptist Church, and work with local charitable organizations. He also plans to remain on the city of Mansfield Planning Commission and get in some fishing when he has some time.
"A little of this, a little of that," he said.