August 5, 2008

GA Principal Resigns; Interim Named

By Emily Stranger, The Brunswick News, Ga.

Aug. 5--Glynn Academy students will answer to a new principal when they return to classes Aug. 13.

Davis Baker, who has been the high school's principal the past two years, submitted his resignation Monday to School Superintendent Michael Bull, effective at the end of the work day.

Bull announced the news of Baker's resignation at about 11:15 a.m. Monday to a room full of teachers and school personnel on the Glynn Academy campus.

He said Steven Ballowe, former Gainesville city schools superintendent who had been hired last week for a temporary position as executive director of school improvement, will be interim principal.

Bull said Baker's resignation was "unexpected" and had nothing to do with the hiring of Ballowe.

"I did not know when we hired (Ballowe) last Thursday that he would be the new principal," Bull said, adding that he has no plans to fill the school improvement position for which Ballowe had been hired.

"Davis Baker made the decision to submit the letter," Bull said. "I want to respect Baker and not get into a lot of speculation as to why he resigned."

Baker said he is looking at several job opportunities, both in Georgia and in his home state of Ohio.

"I am looking at a superintendent position in Ohio, and I also have two or three other possibilities, including a consulting position and another job possibility with the Georgia Department of Education," Baker said.

Kendall Lee, an educational consultant with the Ohio School Boards Association, said Monday that there was no record of Baker having applied for any of the superintendent positions available in five Ohio school districts.

Baker said he harbors no ill feelings in leaving, calling his resignation a "good opportunity and move for everybody."

After Monday's announcement, teachers and staff -- some with tears in their eyes -- shook Baker's hands and gave him hugs.

Baker also became sentimental and at times wiped away a tear.

"I have no ill feelings and, if anything, I want to leave on a positive note because there is an important ESPLOST (sales tax vote) in November of 2009 that will benefit both area high schools, and I wouldn't want to discourage people from voting for it because it would be the best for our kids," he said. "I would do anything for the kids and this community. I love the kids and the hardest part of this is walking away from them."

Baker was principal of Buckeye Valley High School in Delaware, Ohio, prior to being hired by Glynn County schools in July 2006.

He was chosen to fill the vacancy at Glynn Academy created when then-principal Joseph Barrow left in April 2006 to become superintendent of Ware County public schools.

Ballowe, who achieved brief notoriety in 2004 when President Bush praised the academic successes of the Gainesville schools, said he has high hopes for Glynn Academy and plans to build on the successes of Baker.

"I'm excited to be here," said Ballowe. "We're going to be here to guarantee that every child's dream becomes a reality and we will continue to accept the responsibility of each child's success."

Glynn Academy, along with Brunswick High School, this past year failed to make federally mandated adequate yearly progress because too few students passed the state's high school graduation test the first time they took it. Both schools made AYP the previous year.

Ballowe's role at Glynn Academy will return him to a position he once filled in South Carolina. He was principal of Hilton Head High School in Hilton Head, S.C., from 1979 to 1986. He also served as assistant principal of Eau Claire High School in Columbia, S.C., from 1977 to 1979.

The Gainesville Board of Education had blamed Ballowe for a $6.5 million deficit and fired him July 3 on a 3-2 vote. Bull, who had worked with Ballowe in Gainesville as assistant superintendent before he became Glynn County superintendent, last week offered his support for Ballowe in the Gainesville budget dispute.

He said the board of education, not Ballowe, had created the deficit by lowering the tax millage it collected.


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