COVINGTON — As the school year draws to a close, the Newton County School System has made some personnel changes that will bring new leadership to many of the county’s schools for the upcoming year.
According to a press release from NCSS, the transfers of principals and assistant principals to other schools is a way to “provide new challenges that capitalize on their unique leadership skills with the ultimate goal of improving students’ achievement.”
“The moves we have made aren’t due to concerns in current leadership,” said Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey, who recommended to moves to the Board of Education, which approved them. “Our goal is to enhance our schools by providing opportunities for our school leaders to excel through a variety of experiences and challenges. By strengthening our leadership team, we expect increased student outcomes. Every decision we make is based on what’s in the best interest of our students.”
Not all of the changes have been met with enthusiasm, though, particularly among parents at Mansfield Elementary School who will see their principal, Lynne DiNardo, transferred to Flint Hill Elementary School.
Michelle Faith’s son attended Mansfield Elementary School and now her daughter is in pre-K at the school. Learning that the school will have a new principal next year was disconcerting to Faith, who said she contacted Fuhrey and all BOE members to express her concerns.
“We had a leader in place for 20-plus years (G.W. Davis), so we as parents in the small town of Mansfield are accustomed to seeing that face and we had a comfort level with having the same leader. Knowing that he supported Lynne DiNardo being the new principal after he retired continued our comfort level,” Faith said on Thursday. “But now, after only two years, we have to go through another transition to someone we don’t know.”
The new principal of Mansfield will be Lori Thomas, who is currently principal at Flint Hill Elementary School.
With an enrollment of 450 students, Mansfield is the smallest elementary school in Newton County, while Flint Hill is the largest, with a population more than twice that size with 1,142 students enrolled.
Mansfield also outpaced the state averages on the 2013 College and Career Readiness Performance Index with a score of 84.8 versus the state average of 78.5. Flint Hill received a CCRPI score of 69.1.
Faith said she has seen DiNardo’s leadership style work particularly well in a smaller environment, and said DiNardo connects with the teachers and students alike.
Faith, along with her father and brothers, grew up in Mansfield and attended Mansfield Elementary School as a child.
“I am very familiar with Mansfield, and I gained a lot of comfort with my son being there for all those years, and now my daughter adores Lynne DiNardo,” she said. “I just don’t understand why are we taking something away when it’s working fine. It’s working great, in fact. I don’t understand why now — why take someone so important to Mansfield, with the longevity of Mansfield, and why change that at this point in time.”
In the press release from the school system, DiNardo, who has been at Mansfield for four years, said she “will be sad to leave the students, staff and families here, but I know that Dr. Thomas will continue to implement all the great things we do to ensure the success of our students. With that said, I am truly looking forward to working with the staff at Flint Hill and to meeting the students and families there.”
Thomas, who has been at Flint Hill for three years, said leaving Flint Hill “will be very bittersweet.”
She said she enjoyed working with the staff and families as the county merged three smaller schools into Flint Hill.
“It will be difficult for me to let go and say goodbye, as each and every person means so much to me,” Thomas stated. “With that being said, I am also very excited about the challenges that lie ahead of me as I move to Mansfield. Mansfield has a reputation for being one of Newton County’s top performing schools and I am looking forward to becoming a part of the wonderful things happening there.”
The following are the administrative changes for the 2014-15 school year:
• John Ellenberg — has been changed from interim principal to principal of Newton High School;
• Ryan Norman — has been promoted from interim assistant principal to assistant principal of Newton High School;
• Gabriel Burnett, current assistant principal at Alcovy High School, will transfer to assistant principal at Cousins Middle School;
• Troy Davis will, at his request, transfer from assistant principal at Indian Creek Middle School to science teacher at Newton High School;
• Renee Evans, current assistant principal at Rocky Plains Elementary School, will serve as assistant principal at Porterdale Elementary School;
• Holly Johnston, current assistant principal at Porterdale Elementary School, will transfer to the assistant principal position at Rocky Plains Elementary School;
• Romonda Middlebrooks, current assistant principal at Cousins Middle School, will transfer to Veterans Memorial Middle School as assistant principal;
• Shundreia Neely, current assistant principal at Alcovy High School, will transfer to assistant principal at Indian Creek Middle School;
• Mary Roach, assistant principal at Veterans Memorial Middle School, will also move to assistant principal at Indian Creek Middle School;
• Lynne DiNardo, current principal at Mansfield Elementary School, will become principal at Flint Hill Elementary School; and
• Lori Thomas, current principal at Flint Hill Elementary School, will serve as principal at Mansfield Elementary School