Ready to Lead
Five New Principals Take Helm for JCSS Schools
On the first Thursday in August, while students step off the bus or unload from their family vehicles, bright-eyed and ready to start a new school year, five new principals inside the Jackson County School System will be awaiting to greet students, and ready to lead throughout the upcoming school year.
The five new principals inside the Jackson County School System include Dr. Miriam Ledford-Lyle at the new Legacy Knoll Middle School, Amy Adams at South Jackson Elementary, Johnathan Harris at East Jackson Middle, Melissa Gillespie at Jackson County High and Joshua Todd at Gum Springs Elementary.
Working with their new administrative teams inside their buildings throughout the summer, all five principals are ready to tackle Year 1 as building leaders. Gillespie has been with Jackson County High School since 2018. She most recently served as an assistant principal before being approved as the new principal, a position that became vacant when former principal Jason Wester was announced as the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services.
One of the goals for Gillespie at JCHS is to build a culture that students and staff can be proud of for years to come.
“This year we will engage in an ongoing conversation about why we are #proudtobeJC. Personally, I am #proudtobeJC because of the culture of possibility that exists within our school building,” Gillespie said. “This culture of possibility is a lens that enables us to see and focus on the assets that result in all-around success for our students. Within this culture of possibilities, our students are continually encouraged to believe that nothing is impossible in the pursuit of excellence.
“Our school is growing and we are committed to the challenge of creating a sense of belonging for all of our Panthers.”
Last year, Todd and Gillespie both served as assistant principals at JCHS. Now Todd has shifted over to GSES to lead, after former principal Lisa Ellis was elevated to Director of Elementary Education.
“I have inherited an excellent staff who have high expectations for their students. The previous administration laid a solid foundation for me to build upon,” Todd said. “We have a very active and supportive community who want what’s best for their students, and that is reflected in their high standards for our school. I have had the opportunity to speak with our GSES staff and share my vision. One of my year one goals is to build a culture that is focused on enriching the lives of our students and the community around us. We are working on building relationships with our community businesses to support both students and teachers.
“It is important that our staff understand that we are partners with our parents and our community for the education of our children.I expect the staff at GSES to give their best to our students, our staff and our stakeholders every day. I shared with them at our opening meeting that my expectation for all of us was to enrich the lives of all stakeholders; every single person, every single day.
Todd has spent the majority of his career inside the high school setting, along with a stint with the Georgia Department of Education where he worked in K-12 literacy and reading. For Todd, though, he says he is eager to get to know the students and families at the elementary level.
“I am excited about working with this staff and the nearly 1200 students that come through our doors,” Todd said. “We always want to see our students perform at their highest level, so working with teachers to set high expectations for student instruction to raise our student achievement is also an exciting challenge.”
Being approved as principal of EJMS is a sort-of homecoming for Harris, who taught at East Jackson Comprehensive High School before moving into administrative roles in neighboring systems. Harris’ wife, Jamie, is a literacy specialist within the Jackson County School System and JCSS is also the place his children attend school.
“I am absolutely thrilled to return to JCSS and the East Side as the principal of EJMS. Having previously been a part of this incredible school community, I am eager to re-establish some connections and relationships that make this area so special to me,” said Harris. “This community has always been extremely supportive of the schools and the integral part they play in nurturing and developing students, and I look forward to working together with them to make EJMS a place of positivity where students grow and succeed.”
Harris says that he is thrilled to build strong relationships with students, staff, and the community.
“It is through these relationships and collaborations to foster learning for all students here at EJMS, that we can prepare our students for the next steps in their education and life,” he said. “My hope is that EJMS is a place where staff and students are equally excited to be at, and a place where continuous growth for these groups occurs.”
Adams transitioned from the role of assistant principal at Gum Springs Elementary to principal at South Jackson Elementary. She replaces Resa Brooksher, who retired in May as the principal after spending 26 of her 29 years in education at SJES. For Adams, South Jackson is a special place for her to be named principal; she lives inside the SJES community.
“South Jackson has an amazing community culture,” Adams said. “Dr. (Em) Headley, our assistant principal, and I are both new to South. We also have many new families and several staff members joining the community. “One of our goals as an admin team in our first year is to build and bridge relationships with each other, our staff, students and families of our students. We plan to visit classrooms often, and to host and attend community events. We know that connection to each other will only lead to greater academic success.”
While all new principals face challenges in Year 1 of the position, Dr. Ledford-Lyle’s is especially unique. Approved by the JCSS Board of Education in November, Dr. Ledford-Lyle came to JCSS in January. Since coming aboard, she has overseen the planning of opening the new middle school. Quite a process, Dr. Ledford-Lyle said she is overjoyed at the fact the hard work that has been put in by the school system to ensure LKMS would open on time is coming to fruition.
The goal of Year 1 is to establish a culture inside a new school building and to create a Legacy for all students and staff.
“A great number of people will be able to leave their legacy at Legacy Knoll; the idea of starting that legacy with a team of people is really exciting,” said Dr. Ledford-Lyle. “I love the idea that the kind of people that are building Legacy Knoll Middle School get to leave their legacy.”