A couple of new captains will be at the helm of two Columbia County elementary schools when classes resume next week.
Stephanie Reese is the new principal of Brookwood Elementary, and Laura Hughes is the new principal at North Columbia Elementary.
Reese, an educator for 20 years, takes over for the only principal Brookwood has had since its 1988 opening.
Brenda Jones, a more than 40-year veteran of Columbia County schools, retired in the spring. Superintendent Charles Nagle called her “an icon.”
Reese said she’s up to the challenge.
“It’s a wonderful community, and I think everybody is excited about the possibility of adding something different, a different flavor,” Reese said.
Reese was principal for the past seven years at Ellen Woodside Elementary School in Greenville, S.C.
“This is a unique school, very family oriented, very friendly environment,” she said. “And that’s exactly what I had where I was from.”
For returning students and parents, some changes will be immediate. The school is getting new landscaping out front, and a new mural is being painted in the front hallway this week in time for open house on Friday.
At North Columbia, Hughes takes over for Kay Sanders, who was the principal of the school for the past 10 years.
She’s already familiar with the Columbia County school system, having served last year as an assistant principal for Evans and Grovetown middle schools. Before coming to Columbia County, she was principal of Dearing Elementary School in McDuffie County.
As to her return to elementary school, “I couldn’t be happier,” Hughes said.
One big change will be that the school won’t have an assistant principal. As the school’s population dropped below the level for which the state provides for an assistant principal, the school board cut the position from the school.
“It really makes sense with so few students,” Hughes said. “Luckily I have the experience of being a principal.
“I’m just in the process of figuring out the best way to make it work, and what things I can have help with. The great thing is that I’ve got a great staff who are just willing to do whatever it takes, and that in itself is really going to help.”
One of Hughes’ immediate goals is to get to know all 350 pupils, which will be far easier than it was with her time split between the county’s two largest middle schools last year.
“Last year I had 1,800 kids, so this is exactly the kind of setting that I love,” she said.
Among the changes parents and students will see at the school this year are some relocated classrooms, with teachers rearranged to put grade levels together, she said.
The entire school, on Ray Owens Road in Appling, will change location in a few years. The board of education recently purchased a site near Windmill Plantation in Evans with the expectation of relocating North Columbia.