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School board picks Fuhrey as first female superintendent

COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Education selected Samantha Fuhrey, current deputy superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for the Newton County School System, as its next superintendent.

The board approved a motion made by board member Jeff Meadors and seconded by Vice Chair Shakila Henderson-Baker in a 3-2 vote at its monthly work session Tuesday. Board members Eddie Johnson and Almond Turner opposed the motion.

A nearly full boardroom of teachers and other school system staff, parents and community members stood and applauded the approved motion.

“I’m absolutely delighted to have been selected. I cannot wait to continue the progress and work we’ve done,” Fuhrey said after the vote. “I look forward to the challenge.”

Fuhrey will be the first female superintendent of NCSS, which she said was “amazing.”

“What an honor to be selected in that role,” she said with tears in her eyes. “It’s overwhelming.”

Current NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews is set to retire July 1.

“I am certain that still more progress will find our public schools in the years ahead, given Ms. Fuhrey’s long-time commitment to the community and school system,” Mathews said in an email to staff after the vote.

Fuhrey has served in her current position for just over a year, after she moved to the district leadership level in 2008 to become the director of Professional Learning. She was principal of Indian Creek Middle School from 2005-2008, after having been promoted from assistant principal, a position she held from 2001-2005.

“I think in order to see progress and really make our mark, you have to know what’s going on. We need someone who believes in it and who’s invested in it,” Baker said. “I hope to continue to see progress.”

Fellow board member Abigail Coggin said she has received input from faculty, students and the community about the next superintendent.

“I feel like we’re moving forward. We’re on the right path right now, and we don’t need change,” she said. “We just need to move forward and progress even further.”

Johnson and Turner did not give a reason why they opposed the motion to approve Fuhrey; the two also voted against Fuhrey when Mathews recommended to promote her from executive director of Secondary Education to deputy superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in March 2012, saying they had no problem with her but were against the process of promoting her instead of holding an open application period.

After Meadors’ motion, Johnson made a motion to accept Price; however, school board Chair Abigail Coggin told him that the first motion had to pass or fail before another motion could be made.

Johnson and Turner did not return calls seeking comment as of press time Wednesday.

“I will do everything and anything I can to support you to continue progress,” Turner said after Tuesday’s vote. “It’s been a very stressful situation for all of us.”

Prior to her employment with NCSS, Fuhrey worked for the DeKalb County School System as an assistant principal and an English teacher.

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for all the folks I’ve worked with over the past 20 years,” she said. “It’s an example of hard work, dedication and commitment.”

Fuhrey earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary English from Marywood University in 1991 and her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of West Georgia in 2000. She added an education specialist’s degree in educational leadership from Georgia College and State University in 2006.

She has served as a leadership preparation performance coach, presenter at the International Reading Conference; volunteer for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; volunteer for Covington Relay for Life; former volunteer treasurer/board member for Newton County Literacy Volunteers; and presenter at Griffin RESA’s Summer Leadership Conference. She has also conducted workshops on leadership development, teacher leadership, corrective reading, literacy across the curriculum and reading fluency.

Fuhrey said Tuesday that the transition to superintendent should be smooth.

“I work right next to (Mathews),” she said. “We’ll be elbow to elbow here on out.”

When not at work, Fuhrey enjoys spending time with her daughter, reading, painting, sewing and spending time with the community at her family restaurant, Double Dips in Oxford.

Georgia School Boards Association conducted the search for $8,000, and 34 applications from across the nation were submitted for the open position of superintendent. Fuhrey was one of three finalists; the other two were Samuel Paul Light, superintendent of the Illini Bluffs Community Unit School District No. 327 in Glasford, Ill. and Noris Felicia Price, deputy superintendent for the Clarke County School District in Athens.