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New Gainesville High principal fills role of a lifetime
Larkin knows students and students know Larkin
Gainesville High School principal LaCrisia Larkin talks Thursday with sophomore Bailey Armour. - photo by Tom Reed

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that LaCrisia Larkin was the first in her family to graduate from high school.

When LaCrisia Larkin was in middle school, she was afforded the opportunity to play a part in “Conrack,” a 1974 film based on the book “The Water is Wide” by Pat Conroy.

The book, and subsequently the film, autobiographically highlighted Conroy’s work as a teacher on Daufuskie Island in South Carolina, a poor community with little connection to the mainland.

During his tenure as a teacher there, Conroy, like most effective teachers, attempted to open the students’ eyes to the outside world, despite administrative resistance.

Prior to the part in the movie, Larkin, a Brunswick native, had an idea she wanted to pursue education as a career, but the experience portraying a student in the film solidified her decision.

“From that experience, it was my plan to maybe help in some way because (Conroy) was passionate about exposing these kids to something they may not have been exposed to,” Larkin said. “So, that planted a little seed.”

Larkin graduated from Fort Valley College and State University in 1982 with a bachelor of science degree in business education. Since then, she’s been at Gainesville High working as a teacher, Career, Technical and Agricultural Education director and assistant principal of the school’s careers academy.

She was named as the interim principal last April after Chris Mance, the school’s principal at the time, passed away.

Earlier this week, the board of education announced that role had taken a more permanent turn, handing over the reins of the high school permanently to Larkin.

And much like Conroy, Larkin’s time in the classroom allowed her to impact the lives of dozens of students. An administrative role, Larkin said, allows her to do that on a greater scale.

“It’s a different perspective,” Larkin said. “You have an opportunity to help everyone.”

That includes the three key areas Larkin sees as the pieces to a successful education: teachers, students and parents.

“When those three pieces truly come together and everyone is on board, it really turns out successfully for the student,” she said. “I see administration as an opportunity to really be the fourth wheel in that piece.”

So far, the students are responding.

“Everybody remembers Mr. Mance and how good of a principal he was,” said Bailey Armour, a sophomore at Gainesville. “I think she sometimes feels like she doesn’t live up to that, but I think she’s going to do a really good job and that she deserves to be our new principal.”

And the students know Larkin just as well as she knows them.

“You would think a principal would just stay in their office and just deal with paperwork, or something, but she’s always roaming and checking up on people,” said Michelle Mercado, a senior.

“Not just as a principal, but as a person, she wants me to succeed and she tells me that all the time. I’m sure she tells everyone else she talks to that she’s there for them.”

That aligns with her professional goals, Larkin said.

“I think my goal has been to be a listener for teachers, student and parents,” Larkin said.

“I am so committed to getting the job done. We’re here for teachers, we’re here for students, we’re here for parents — we just know how important all of those pieces are.”