A Harlem High School graduate was chosen Tuesday to lead his alma mater.
The Columbia County school board approved Dietmar Perez as the school's new principal during a Tuesday meeting.
"I've always loved Harlem High School and I'm very, very proud to be there as its leader," Perez said.
Currently an assistant principal at Harlem High, Perez will take the top job starting next school year. He'll replace Alan Griffin, who recently took the post as principal of the Columbia County Alternative School after the retirement of Bob Starcher.
Perez moved into school administration three years ago. Before that, he taught social studies and coached football and baseball for 15 years at Harlem High.
Now an Evans resident, Perez grew up in Grovetown and graduated in 1981 from Harlem, where he played baseball and football.
After he "fell in love with" history at Harlem, Perez said he chose to pursue that his college major. While at Augusta State University, he started to ponder his opportunities.
Not willing to work as a museum curator, Perez said he looked to the education field as a possible career choice.
"I started doing my (classroom) observations and internships at some of the schools and found that I really enjoyed being in the school setting and being around young people," he said. "That's what led me to it."
Perez says his primary goal is to improve the school's 68.8 percent graduation rate. However, he's still unsure of how he intends to do that.
"We have a lot of great teachers here with a lot of great ideas," he said. "We'll sit down and look at the issues we face and come up with some solutions."
Perhaps the biggest hurdle Perez will face will be rebuilding the school's extra-curricular programs once Harlem loses students rezoned to the new Grovetown High School.
"We're losing some very bright students. We're losing some students that were very active in sports, or drama, or band, or clubs," he said.
"It's going to be a challenge to attract kids back into those programs, but we can do good things at Harlem High School. We just have to work hard at it."
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