Gainesville High School will have a new principal starting this fall.
Tom Smith, current principal at Union Grove High School in McDonough, has been hired to replace LaCrisia Larkin, the longtime Gainesville High School principal, Superintendent Wanda Creel confirmed Friday.
Smith said he’s excited, and he spent several hours on the high school campus Friday to begin acclimating to its ways.
“Obviously, every school in the state of Georgia does things a little bit differently, and that can be overwhelming,” he said. “It’s adjusting my way of doing things to coming here and adapting to the way things are done. So it’s a little overwhelming, but extremely exciting.”
Smith said he has always been in large school systems, and he’s excited about the opportunity to be part of a city school system.
“What’s really appealing to me with Gainesville is it’s a city school,” he said. “My history of understanding city schools is there’s a great sense of pride. Because it’s not a county-based, sharing resources, it’s a community-based situation.”
He said he appreciates that Gainesville High School is “the pride of the city.”
“I’m really looking forward to that intimacy even though it’s a big high school, 1,800 students,” he said.
Smith earned his undergraduate degree in business education from Fairmont State College in West Virginia in 1985. He earned a masters in professional physical education from West Virginia University in 1987, and worked as a business teacher and football coach for more than a decade in several central Georgia schools.
He became assistant principal of Dutchtown High School in July 2004 and served in the position until becoming principal of Union Grove in 2007.
Each year since 2007, Union Grove has been named one of America’s Best High Schools according to Newsweek and the Washington Post. In 2011, it was ranked in the top 3.3 percent in the nation.
In the same time span, the school’s ACT, SAT and AP scores have all increased. Its graduation rate increased from 81.9 percent when Smith first arrived to 94 percent last year.
Creel said Smith was selected in part because of his track record, his experience in data-driven decision making and his strengths aligning with Gainesville High.
Smith said he is working with Henry County Schools and Gainesville City Schools to determine his start date. He hopes to be in Gainesville before the end of the school year to help with the development of the new Gainesville Freshman Center and get acclimated before summer planning.
“I want to be part of that process,” he said. “So we’re negotiating that now, and I’m looking forward to possibly starting in May, to be here and be part of those conversations and discussions. And getting a better idea of what the Red Elephant culture is all about.”