Name: Kirk Wright
Family: wife Susan, a teacher, and two children, Ben, 4, and Matthew, 2.
Education: Georgia College and State University, education specialist to be awarded summer 2004; University of Maryland, College Park, master of education (elementary education) 1994; University of Texas at San Antonio, bachelor of arts (English), 1991.
Work history: 2002 assistant principal, North Harlem Elementary School; 2001-2002 principal, Potomac Elementary School; 2000-2001 assistant principal II, Potomac Elementary School; 1999-2000 assistant principal I, Weller Road Elementary School; 1998-1999 teacher, reading and science, sixth grade, Herbert Hoover Middle School; 1994-1998 teacher, fifth grade, all subjects, Rock Creek Valley Elementary School; 1993-1994 graduate fellowship, University of Maryland; 1991-1993 teacher, English, seventh and eighth grades, Southside Middle School, San Antonio.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Kirk Wright has a new key chain.
While most people might have five or six keys to fumble with, the Columbia County school board handed Wright about 100 new ones to figure out last month along with the keys to the principal's office at Evans Middle School.
"One of the hardest things is knowing what key fits what door," Wright said. "It's the little things you take for granted. The eighth-graders just look at me when I knock on the door to let me in."
That story may be analogous to what Wright has faced as the school's new principal.
Jokingly, Wright calls himself the consolation prize - but much better that a year's supply of Rice-A-Roni.
The saga began when former principal Myrel Seigler resigned Jan. 14, and assistant principal Vanessa Watkins took the helm. She was the clear favorite of numerous students, staff and parents. But school board officials said she didn't have the experience they required. Even the school council rejected the two candidates - including Wright - they interviewed and urged the board to cast their net again.
The board hired Wright at the advice of Superintendent Tommy Price. It was a move that left the Parent Teacher Association president storming from the meeting in tears and Wright fumbling for the keys.
He must learn them all and soon - the keys, the 70-80 staff members, the 650 pupils and their parents.
In two weeks, Wright said he has most of their names memorized.
"I try to talk to people, learn about them, their family stories, what they bring to the table and learn about who they are, not just their names," Wright said.
Wright, 34, has served for the past two years as assistant principal of North Harlem Elementary School. He and his wife Susan and two young children moved to Evans from Maryland.
He has 11 years in education, teaching fifth through eighth grades before moving into elementary-school administration five years ago. In the school system where he worked in Montgomery County, Md., there were 130,000 pupils. Columbia County has 19,300.
Wright knows that emotionally and physically, Evans Middle School is in a state of flux. The 21-acre campus is now on the market and is being eyed by commercial developers. It will be a precarious move. When the property is sold, then a new school will be built.
Though a new building is in the future, Wright said he has his own plans to lift the school academically to new heights.
"Ultimately, I want Evans Middle School to become a nationally recognized School of Excellence," Wright said. "We can achieve that goal as a team, as a community of learners - not just where we are teaching, but where kids are learning, and we are learning. We need to sharpen our swords in the strategies we use to help our kids."
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