Gainesville City Schools will start this year with new homegrown leaders holding the reins at two schools.
Both Gainesville Exploration Academy and Gainesville High School will have new principals: Renee Boatright and LaCrisia Larkin.
Both schools hired from within their own walls.
Boatright, the new principal at Gainesville Exploration, takes over for Priscilla Collins, who took a job at the central office.
“Now I get to try and fill her shoes,” said Boatright, adding that both of their leadership styles are similar.
She said that the school year will be “business as usual.”
“We’re in the service business, so, of course, my leadership style is service,” said Boatright. “My job is to remove barriers for teachers and for our students and then to model my expectations, build relationships and, of course, support our teachers to make sure they have what they need to increase our student achievement.”
Boatright has spent the last six years as assistant principal at Gainesville Exploration and two years prior to that teaching second grade.
“Since I’ve been assistant principal here at this school, these are things that we have already implemented and have already been doing and we’re just going to build on that,” she said. “I think we’re on the right path. We have an excellent group of teachers.”
She made her way to the Gainesville system from Jeff Davis Primary School in South Georgia.
Just down the road at Gainesville High School, Larkin will continue her role as interim principal.
She was named to the position in late April after Chris Mance, the school’s principal at the time, passed away.
Larkin, who has walked the halls of Gainesville High since 1982, said the school’s open-door policy is something that makes the campus strong and she hopes for it to continue.
“As much as possible, we want our students to know that individuals are here to help with whatever they are struggling with — whether it be academic or something they need to see counselors about,” she said. “If the student, parent, teacher relationships are strong, then success happens, and that’s what I’m going to focus on this year.”
Larkin also said one of her pushes will be daily attendance for all students, starting at the ninth-grade level.
“We’re going to emphasize the importance of being here every single day,” said Larkin.
“We want to make sure our kids have an opportunity to learn from bell to bell.”
Larkin said the search for a full-time principal could begin as early as October, but until one is named, she will try to “raise the bar” at Gainesville High.
“I am focused on getting the job done,” she said. “The bar of excellence is high (at Gainesville High) and I am trying to maintain that standard and take it beyond where it’s been set.”
School starts Friday in both the Gainesville and Hall County systems.