While all the other principals in Hall County Schools have spent this week focused on the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, Wes McGee has his eyes on the beginning of the next school year — in August 2018.
McGee serves as principal of a school that hasn’t started classes. In fact, his school doesn’t even have a name yet.
After four years as a principal in Habersham County, McGee began work July 1 as the principal of the Hall County district’s seventh high school that is scheduled to open in August 2018 on the campus where Flowery Branch High currently sits as part of a shuffling of South Hall schools.
A middle school, which will be the feeder school into the new high school, will also be housed at the current Flowery Branch High, but a principal is not expected to be selected for that school until December or January, according to Superintendent Will Schofield.
“My whole first day was just meeting people,” McGee said Wednesday. “My goal was to be visible and to try to introduce myself to all the students and faculty. I was at Johnson High School and at Flowery Branch going in and out of classrooms. I wanted the kids to know my name, who I was and try to talk to them just a little bit.”
McGee, who has offices at both Johnson and Flowery Branch and will be getting students and likely faculty and staff from both high schools, said building relationships in the schools and community is important to building a team and getting ready for the first day of school next fall.
“I knew this was going to be an enormous job coming in, but I like to call challenges opportunities,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s absolutely an enormous job, but I go back to the team concept. If I were thinking it was just me doing this, I would be worried, but it’s not just me.”
McGee added to his team this week, naming Flowery Branch High Assistant Principal Kenny Hill as athletic director for the school. He said he will be working on other hires and will be looking inside the school district first.
“The vast majority of all the staff will be put in place by the end of school year,” he said.
McGee said the most common question he gets asked from students and others is about the school’s name, or lack of one right now.
“As I went into classrooms, I got that often: ‘So what’s the name of the school going to be?’ People want to know,” he said.
The school district recently sent out surveys with proposed names so that residents in the attendance zones for the new middle and high schools could vote on their choices. Schofield said last month he would like to have a name finalized by the board in August.
“I think it’s hard to take a direction if you don’t know a name,” Hill said. “Once that takes place, you’ll see things falling into place. If you take out the times I ask him about it, (McGee) probably hears it 10 times a day.”
Once the name is decided, McGee and Hill said they plan to involve the community in other ways, including deciding on mascots and colors.
Even though there is not yet a principal in place for the middle school, McGee said he is doing some planning on the academic side with the middle school in mind.
“In looking at the curriculum pieces for the high school, I’m looking at the middle school too because it all fits in together,” he said. “They’re not two separate entities. One fits into the other. We’re planning for grades 6 through 12.”
The new principal said he is going to continually look at ways to get to know the community and build that foundation.
“I am looking to open up some informal meet-and-greets just to invite parents and whoever wants to come in and just get to know me a little better,” McGee said. “That’s where it starts. There’s lots of details that go into the planning and scheduling process, teacher allotments, where all those students are going. To me, it’s all about why we’re here as educators; it’s about the kids and it’s about people.”