Lakeside High School's newly-named principal Jeff Carney, the current principal of Greenbrier Middle School, may soon be putting a lot of miles on his car.
This is no time for a lame-duck principal at Lakeside. And because this is the time of year most hiring and budgetary decisions are made, officials said they will ask Carney to take over the reins at Lakeside by next month. Lakeside's current Principal Victor Lee, would be asked to help Carney make the transition, but Mr. Lee would be released before his contract ends - with pay. Carney would be in the unprecedented position of running two schools at once.
Columbia County Schools Superintendent Tommy Price announced his plan to parents at a Wednesday afternoon meeting. The night before, Price took another unprecedented move in recommending Carney to the board, circumventing the normal parent/teacher committee hiring process. The recommendation came just two weeks after Lakeside High School's principal and its head football coach resigned.
"Due to the turmoil that has divided our county, I thought it was important to forego community and staff involvement in the hiring process," Price told the board. "To place a group of individuals in charge of this decision would really not have been in the best interest of the school at this time. Mr. Carney is a proven leader who has demonstrated his ability to run a good school and I'm sure he will rise to the task."
At Lakeside, Carney, 37, will command a staff of 80 and a student population of 1,550.
School Board members praised Price for his recommendation.
"It's a bold step for us, but we need to put this issue behind us and move this school forward in a cohesive manner that is conducive to learning," School Board Trustee Lee Muns said.
Mr. Carney, who graduated from Columbia County schools, began his career in education 13 years ago in Columbia County teaching sixth grade language arts at Lakeside Middle School.
As Lakeside's new principal, his goal, he said, will be to unite the school. One of his first tasks will be hiring a new athletic director.
"We want to get everybody on the same page - the parents, county, staff and students," Carney said. "It's amazing what the kids and teachers accomplish. When everybody gets on the same page, we will raise that bar even higher."
Carney moved into administration eight years ago as assistant principal of Riverside Middle School. He also was assistant principal of Greenbrier High when it opened in 1996. He became principal of Evans Middle four years ago, then moved to be principal of Greenbrier Middle when it opened in the 2000-2001 school year. Being a high school principal has been a career goal, he said.
"The scope is so much bigger at a high school - bigger programs, bigger budgets and the athletics plays such a huge part of it," he said.
Karen Thomason, the vice president of Lakeside's Parent Teacher Organization, said she supports the hiring process and hopes the school will get behind its new leader.
"As far as how it was handled, I think Mr. Price is trying to get everything taken care of the best he can with all that's gone on. You've got to trust in the people that are in the positions to hire the employees. I'd rather Mr. Price hire somebody, than it be the parents doing it, because then you're back into that political thing again," Thomason said. "Mr. Price is looking out for the whole county. I think it's time to leave all this conflict behind. He's probably put somebody in their that's going to do a good job and he needs our support."
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