December 13, 2017
By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
CHRISTIANA — Chris George considers himself fortunate to have worked for multiple principals during the past 11 years.
George, currently an assistant principal at Christiana Middle School, previously taught social studies and was the head football coach at the school for eight years.
During that time, he worked with former Christiana principals Dr. John Ash and Bob Horne, and currently works alongside Principal Dr. Crystal Hastings. Before becoming an assistant principal at the school, George worked for a year as a split assistant principal at Lascassas Elementary and Smyrna Elementary School with principals Tamera Blair and Amy Patton.
George plans to use those experiences to enhance his yearlong study as part of the 2018 class of the Governor’s Academy for School Leadership, a program created by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.
George has been selected as one of 26 fellows for next year’s program, which will begin in January.
“I’ve had such strong leadership mentors — from Dr. Ash to Mr. Horne and Dr. Hastings, even working for Ms. Patton and Ms. Blair for a year — I’m able to take and mold different leadership styles and things that I’ve seen into ultimately the type of leader that I want to become,” George said. “That’s something that I’m very appreciative of, from when I started my first year until now, I’ve been given the opportunities to grow and learn from those things.”
For the leadership program, Rutherford County Director of Schools Don Odom selected nominees from each grade-band level this year. George was chosen as the nominee for the middle school level, and in October, was tasked with completing the application process.
Siegel Middle School Principal Kim Stoecker was paired with George for the nomination, and will serve as his mentor during the yearlong process. As part of the program, George will spend three days a month at Siegel Middle School serving as a principal alongside Stoecker.
“Whether it’s shadowing or whether she’s throwing me into the mix, I get to go and see how her school runs,” George said.
The experience will be good for both of them, Stoecker said, because it will provide opportunities to network and learn with other education leaders. She likes that the program requires that George spend time away from his home school so he can see every aspect of what the job entails.
“I will want him to be as involved as he wants to be,” Stoecker said. “It’s good that they do it that way, because it gets him out of his building. It gives him a bird’s eye view of a different school.”
In addition to the work at Siegel, George will join other fellows in the program monthly at Vanderbilt University to study different facets of leadership and to discuss what it takes to become an instructional leader in a school.
“A modern day principal is the lead teacher in the building,” George explained. “We have to be able to have our hands in every element of instruction. If we’re not working closely with our teachers in the classroom on a daily basis and making sure we’re giving the kids the quality eduction they deserve, we can’t expect to see that growth from students as they transition. Especially from middle school to high school, we want them to leave (middle school) academically and socially ready to take on whatever comes at them the next four years.”
George is the second assistant principal from Rutherford County Schools to be accepted into the coveted program. Last year, former Riverdale High School Assistant Principal Chelsea Spaulding Culbreth was accepted as a fellow in the leadership academy.
Once successfully completing the program, George says the intent is for fellows to pursue head principal positions. He said the director of the program, Dr. Hank Staggs, laid out the expectations “very firmly.”
“He expects participants to pursue principal positions within their districts or within their areas within one to three years,” George said. "They want us to be placed within that time frame. It’s not a guarantee. We have a lot of talented people in Rutherford County. It’s all about fit sometimes too.”
PHOTO / JAMES EVANS
Chris George, who has served as an assistant principal of Christiana Middle School since last school year, has been named a fellow in the Governor's Academy for School Leadership, a program created by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam.