Louis Mair’s classrooms are not filled with students, but with “scholars.” He wants to create a positive mentality for kids, he said, so he likes to use the term scholars to offer greater respect.
“We connected with him immediately,” Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said. “The one thing you will never hear (Mair) say is ‘students.’ In his vocabulary it is all about the scholars… which is probably something we’ll be adopting very soon.”
His vision is to make West Campus into a world-class school.
“Just to think that I have a whole year to plan — that’s exciting,” Mair said in a phone interview.
Mair has a rare opportunity to build a school from the ground up and hire his own staff informed by connections he has made through more than 20 years in education. He started his career in the late 1990s in his native New York City, but moved to Georgia in 2001 to become a teacher in Fulton County.
He has spent most of his career in Georgia as an elementary and middle school teacher and made the jump to assistant principal in Gwinnett County 10 years ago. He has held several administrative jobs in that time, and last year he made a cross country move to Portland, Oregon, to become the principal of Harriet Tubman Middle School.
The trip came as a shock to him and his family, Mair said, and the more relaxed west coast style was helpful for him to recharge. “It’s really laid back,” he said. “They take three hours behind seriously here.”
But there were challenges in Portland too, because students were not able to return to in-person classes until April this school year, he said. “I don’t like being in front of a camera,” he said. “It’s an uncomfortable thing that I had to become comfortable with.”
He had to learn new ways to connect with people virtually, and he said that he made sure his teachers and staff were doing well emotionally and mentally just as he monitored with his students. He started a system of trying to send out three check-in emails per day to his staff, stressing the importance of self-care during a difficult year.
Gainesville had 30 applicants for the position, Williams said, and from that list a group that included parents, the cabinet and others narrowed down the list to three top candidates. The one thing all of Mair’s references all said was that he was great at building relationships with people, Williams said.
He will arrive in Gainesville on July 1, Williams said.
“We’re going to take that school to new heights,” Mair said. “I have a great feeling about this.”