Samantha Fuhrey will take over as superintendent of the Newton County School System on Monday. She has been employed with NCSS since 2001. Staff Photo: Michelle Floyd
COVINGTON -- Samantha Fuhrey is a parent, a community member and a local business owner, and now she's ready to be the county's next superintendent of schools.
She officially will take over as superintendent of the Newton County School System on Monday, after working in the system since 2001.
Fuhrey has been both a school-level and system administrator, after having worked as a teacher and administrator in DeKalb County Public Schools.
"I'm really looking forward to engaging the community," Fuhrey said.
In fact, she's already planning to hold interactive informational meetings throughout the school year in which parents from clusters of schools will be invited to provide feedback and hear from NCSS officials.
"We haven't really spent a lot of time out in the community," she admitted. "We ask parents to participate, but we can't always tell them how."
Fuhrey said she wants to partner better with the parents, so the students will continue improving.
"I care greatly about this school system. I care greatly about the children and the community," she said, adding that she has a daughter attending NCSS. "Every action I take will be in support of what's best for the kids. If you get off the kids, you get in trouble."
She said she wants them to know her and is looking forward to starting that community partnership -- which also includes businesses -- throughout the next school year.
"That will be a good place to start," she said, adding that she and her administration plan to be in the schools early and often.
Although she's worked closely with retiring Superintendent Gary Mathews for the last three years, she's spent the last several weeks transitioning to her new position.
"He accepted me as a partner," she said. "I think the transition will be smooth since I'm already here -- it's just a matter of packing up and relocating."
Fuhrey said the system has to especially focus on math in the coming years, since the state curriculum has changed several times in recent school years and will change again next year.
She also wants to put more of a focus on reading, especially in the lower grades.
"Our kids need to be able to read on grade level by the time they enter third grade," she said. "Before third grade, kids are still learning how to read. After third grade, they are reading to learn."
She said there may be a need for more kindergarten through second-grade assessments to see how officials can make adjustments along the way to improve reading skills. In the past, those students took the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests, but now those don't begin until third grade.
"It's too late then," Fuhrey said. "We need to start working with them earlier."
She hopes to be able to encourage students to read at school and at home and be able to talk about what they are reading with an adult or older sibling.
"Kids need to read and read often and not just on their own," Fuhrey said.
Other than that, she doesn't expect much to be different, especially in the coming school year. She said teachers need time to adjust to curriculum changes.
"What we're emphasizing is working," she said. "When research tells you something is working, we don't need to stop it."
Fuhrey said her goal is for the system to strategically and incrementally improve over time, as well as to make school relevant for students.
Currently, the College and Career Ready Performance Index, or the state's new accountability system, scores NCSS as a high C, and Fuhrey said she obviously wants to strive for the system to be an A.
"Teachers and the administration are working tirelessly," she said. "And the schools need our support."