New Principals at NOHS and OCMS Explain Roles, Philosophies

North Oconee High School and Oconee County Middle School both introduced new principals on Monday. Philip Brown, the new North Oconee principal, was formerly the principal at OCMS. His replacement, Judy Marable, was formerly an assistant principal at OCMS

The final stretch of the school year brought some added transition this week at two Oconee County schools.

and both introduced new principals on Monday. Philip Brown, the new North Oconee principal, was formerly the principal at OCMS. His replacement, Judy Marable, was formerly an assistant principal at OCMS.

John Jackson, superintendent of Oconee County Schools, that Brown and Marable would both transition into their new roles before the end of this school year. Former North Oconee principal Barry Lollis in February after less than a year with Oconee County schools.

Dozens of parents and teachers had been critical of Lollis’ leadership and communication styles, the Athens Banner-Herald reported. Lollis is the new principal at Putnam County High School.

In an e-mail Jackson sent to parents last month, he noted that the earlier transitions would allow Brown, Marable and Lollis to plan for the 2011-12 school year.

OconeePatch submitted several questions by e-mail to Brown and Marable about their new roles and education philosophies.

Philip Brown, principal, North Oconee High School:

What’s your definition of a successful school?

A successful school is the hub of a community and also a community within itself. Successful schools are comprised of hard-working students, committed faculty members, professional staff members, supportive parents, and visionary leaders. Successful schools value each individual student and work to provide a quality education to the entire student. It is clear in successful schools that all members in the learning community are committed to the same purpose, goals, and mission. I believe in shared decision-making within the student body, faculty, staff, and administration. Collaboration among all stakeholders is critical in the school improvement process, and the principal is instrumental in the facilitation of this collaboration. Another element of a great public school is the notion that public schools are funded by taxpayers. I believe it is essential to realize the opportunity and responsibility that we have as facilitators of taxpayer money to provide an excellent opportunity for each student.

How will your education experience, and experience within the Oconee County School System, help the transition to your new position?

One thing is clear at NOHS. There are a number of very intelligent students, faculty, staff members, and administrators currently working at NOHS. I am not in possession of all of the correct or best answers, but my success as a leader will be determined by my ability to put each person at NOHS in a position to be successful and also my ability to facilitate the collaboration within each body of stakeholders.

My experiences are just that, experiences. Resumes tell a story, but parents and students do not care about only resumes. Students want to know that you care about them individually and have a desire for them to be successful. Parents also want to know that you value their student and are willing to work extremely hard to help their child reach all of their hopes and goals.

I have been in the system for the past five years as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal. These experiences have been extremely rewarding, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work in the district. Each experience is critical in my understanding of the system. It also helps to know many of the students at NOHS since I taught many of the current 9th and 10th graders.

Also, it is important to say that I will always be a teacher at heart. I did not move away from the classroom to get away from students. I decided to pursue school leadership in hopes of broadening my experiences and widening the scope of my work with students. 

What challenges do you foresee in your new position and how do you plan to tackle them?

Each school presents a different challenge, and it is critical to understand the history of each school. I cannot change the events of the past two years, but I can help the students, faculty, and school community move forward. Part of the challenge at NOHS is the instability in leadership over the past two years. An aspect of my duty is to work to build community and trust within the school. Some may view this as a challenge, but I see it as an opportunity to continue the process of building community and a positive school culture.

How do you plan to communicate with parents and teachers?

Communication with parents and teachers started from the moment that I was named the incoming principal. I provided each faculty member with an opportunity to meet with me individually to discuss their concerns. A number of parents have already e-mailed or phoned me to discuss ways to improve the school. I have also attended a large number of events at the school and spoken with parents and teachers at each of these events.

Part of ongoing communication at the school is through the Web site, e-mails out to parents, telephone calls, real-time school calendar, and conferences. Often times, communication through electronic means are easier to facilitate efficiently, but face-to-face discussions usually produce the most results. I am happy to sit down and discuss concerns with parents.

Effective communication with teachers is essential in the school improvement process. Within the faculty and staff, the school’s leadership team is a structure where many of the critical decisions with the school are discussed and made.

What strides will you take to make sure parents are comfortable to express their opinions with teachers and administrators?

I think a couple of things can help in this process and that is to be as visible as possible and also listen when concerns are brought up by students, parents, or community members. It is also critical for concerns to be addressed in a timely manner. It is not as much about what you say as much as it is about what you do.

Judy Marable, principal, Oconee County Middle School:

What’s your definition of a successful school?

A successful school values the partnership with teachers, parents, and stakeholders to provide an educational experience that ensures the students are challenged, engaged and excited about learning.  In successful schools students, teachers, parents, and the entire school community are actively involved in the students’ education.  Successful middle schools also value the importance of the arts, student organizations, and athletics in providing opportunities for students’ interests. Successful schools put students first and do their best to make decisions based on what is best for students.

What challenges do you foresee in your new position, and how do you plan to tackle them? 

Challenges provide opportunities for growth within an organization.  The faculty and staff at Oconee Middle School set the bar high for all areas of achievement.   We realize that No Child Left Behind may be a challenge as the requirements continue to increase.    I am a supporter of accountability and recognize the importance of accountability in our educational system.  How will we tackle the challenges?   We will maintain the focus on the goals and continue to challenge our students to be thinkers and problem solvers in and out of the classroom.

Given your 23 years of experience in this school system, has being a principal been a long-term goal of yours?

My career goal was to become an instructional leader at the building level.  I've had the opportunity to work with outstanding teachers, principals and school leaders during my career. As an instructional leader, I have the opportunity to serve the educational community on a much larger scale.  The parts of my career that I value the most are the partnerships developed with the students, teachers, parents and community to ensure our students have academic success.  For me the title of principal is not as important as the goals of the role.  

How will your education experience, and experience within the Oconee County School System, help the transition to your new position?

Our community maintains high expectations for our educational programs.  As a long time member of our community, I share those same expectations for excellence.  Our daughter is a product of the , and it is important to me to serve our community.

What are your goals for OCMS next school year, and how do those correspond with the final year of the “School Improvement Plan?”

Last year our faculty and staff realized that our students' writing scores were not at the level we expected.  We placed a major emphasis on writing and have seen improvement.  We will continue this emphasis on writing.  We implemented the College Board Springboard Curriculum in 6th grade language arts this year and plan to expand Springboard in 7th and 8th grades during the 2011-2012 school year.  

An additional focus next year will be the development of common assessments in the content areas of science, social studies, math, and language arts.  This will allow us to assess our students' strengths and weaknesses and differentiate our instruction accordingly.  

An ongoing goal is to increase the opportunities for students to participate in service-learning projects and to increase the opportunities for students to make academic connections with the world outside of the school building.  Relevance of learning is critical for all students.  

All students, teachers, principals, and staff members at Oconee Middle School are learners.




Mike Weisenborn May 05, 2011 at 04:44 PM
We are very sorry to see Mr. Brown go. He has been a great leader and advocate for the children at OCMS, and he was very involved and committed to the school. I don't think I ever attended any after-school function without seeing him there. We also like Mrs. Marable and we look forward to the next three years with our youngest son under her guidance. North Oconee High School parents, be supportive of and nice to Mr. Brown and give him every chance to succeed, and you will never look back again.


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