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Henry County Schools Recognizes New Principals During National Principals Month

National Principals Month is observed during the month of October, and this year, Henry County Schools is recognizing its 8 new principals. Many of these leaders have been working in the district for several years, and others are new to the district. All of them, however, are prepared to lead their respective school communities consistent with Henry County Schools leadership expectations.

Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said, “We believe that effective schools begin with effective leaders – and we have added several new principals who have the necessary skill, mindset, and beliefs around what young people are capable of.” “These competencies, she added, “are prerequisites to being selected as a leader of one of our schools.”

“I am personally excited about our new leaders because they are coming in with fresh eyes, new perspectives, and a willingness to learn. Just in the first few months of this year, they have each proven to be ready for the challenge that comes with being a building leader – and that is an encouraging sign,” added Mary Ann Suddeth, the district’s Chief of Leadership.

Although several new principals have been added this year, the district’s legacy principals are also worthy of recognition. These are the leaders who were called upon to adjust to the uncertainties of COVID – bringing into play new aspects of their leadership, which was required during uncertain times. “All of our principals are to be commended for what they accomplished during the pandemic. It is truly remarkable that they were able to meet the needs of their students and their communities with such dignity and resilience,” said Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis. “Fortunately, as the district begins to emerge from the pandemic, we now have an even stronger collection of leaders who understand the range of responsibility that comes with being a leader in Henry County, and we are stronger with our schools in their hands.”

Below is a listing of the district’s 8 new principals, reflections of their time in leadership this year, and snapshots of their respective professional journeys to date.

Monica Blasingame, Principal of McDonough High School, transitioned to Henry County Schools after serving as principal for Atlanta Public Schools. While she’s a new principal to HCS, she and her family have resided in Henry County for over ten years. Blasingame is beginning her 20th year in education.

“My first six weeks as Principal of McDonough High School have been nothing short of AMAZING! The most important aspect of my work during this short period has been getting to know and building relationships with our students, teachers, and families, and thinking about how we can expand opportunities for our students both academically and civically. I have been busy visiting classrooms to observe instruction and learning. It is my goal to continue the great work at McDonough High School by leading and collaborating with our school community to address emerging needs and opportunities for continuous improvement.” M.B.

Brandi Hardnett, Principal of Luella High School, is beginning her 16th year in education. She has previously served as a teacher, Assistant Principal and School Improvement Facilitator for Henry County Schools. “Academia has been in my blood my entire life. As the daughter of a retired educator, I was raised to assume the role of a servant leader. I believe in cultivating a school culture that is focused on sustaining the academic, social, and emotional development of students. I am committed to serve as a positive role model for the scholars I have been entrusted with and will work diligently to demonstrate that one’s character and intellect are reflective in the decisions we make. I am further committed to serve as a catalyst of growth, change and success for the benefit of students. I firmly believe in doing what is best for children and their future; therefore, I wholeheartedly hold myself and staff accountable for keeping that charge.” B.H.

Dr. Kimberly Kessinger, Principal of McDonough Middle School, is beginning her 18th year in education. Dr. Kessinger has served as a teacher, Assistant Principal, and HCS Director of Teaching and Learning. “As Principal of McDonough Middle School, I am extremely honored to return to the community where I started my career in Henry County Schools 18 years ago. It warms my heart when my former students, now parents, have children attend MMS. I love all of the students here and I am so proud to be a War Hawk again. I believe in our students, our families, and our community. Each and every day I tell myself I belong here!” K.K.

Julie Mosley has transitioned from her position as Director of Professional Learning and Resources in Henry County Schools to Principal of Rock Spring Elementary. Ms. Mosley previously served as an Assistant Principal in Gwinnett County Public Schools for 9 years. This is her 26th year in education.

“As a new principal in my first thirty days, I will never be able to remember all of the kind words and gestures that were given to me. However, I will never forget the way my Rock Spring Elementary School community of students, families, and staff made me feel; welcomed and supported! For that, I will always be grateful. I am truly proud of the work our school community has done to kick off a successful school year. I remain committed to ensuring that our children receive a quality education in an academically rich, instructionally engaging, and nurturing environment and believe that with the continued collaboration and support of our school community, all of our students will learn and achieve at high levels.” J.M.

Sparkle Smith, Principal of Locust Grove Elementary School, is beginning year 23 in education. Ms. Smith’s previous roles in Henry County include Assessment Coordinator and Assistant Principal.

“As I begin my 23rd year in education, I am humbled and very proud to serve as the Principal of Locust Grove Elementary, Home of the Mighty Wildcats! It is my love of children and passion for learning that drive my determination to grow every student academically. I am excited to lead this work at LGE in a collaborative effort with highly effective educators, engaged students, involved parents, and vested Locust Grove community stakeholders. Our learning environment will empower students to think critically, communicate effectively, and become lifelong learners. The faculty & staff of LGE strive daily to prepare students to be safe, responsible, and respectful - To be Wildcat Ready!” S.S.

Melissa Thomas, Principal of Locust Grove Middle School, has previously served Henry County Schools as the Coordinator of Interventions and as an Assistant Principal. This is her 21st year in education, of which 9 years have been in leadership. “As the newly named principal of Locust Grove Middle School, what makes me proud is the diversity of people, ideas and backgrounds that are converging on our campus. In recognizing our differences, we also have had the opportunity to work together to identify our Core Values of Faith, Respect, and Integrity to unify the community around shared values. These Core Values are what will drive our work moving forward. I am proud of all of the students, staff, and families that contributed to this work in order to ensure that we are building a community of learners who are ready to move forward together in teaching and learning.” M.T.

Quinton Ward, Principal of Hampton High School has served as an assistant principal for 15 years. He is very excited to join the Henry County family as he has visited several community events, families, and attended events for years in the Henry County area. “As the new and proud principal of Hampton High School, I am most proud of the faculty and staff of our school. In a period of time where there are challenges in the field of education, the teachers and support staff of Hampton High School remain dedicated to the success of all students. The relationships that our teachers have with our students are nurtured by patience, engaging lessons, and a receptive posture toward children. These are not all traits or characteristics that can be acquired via professional development sessions. What I have witnessed during the first 30 days of the 2022-2023 school year is a genuine desire to see all students succeed. Our theme this school year is ‘A Championship School Year’ and it is clear that in having a staff that is truly a #1 draft pick staff, I am confident that our staff as well as our student body will indeed experience ‘A Championship School Year’.” QW

Makisha Williams, Principal of Woodland Elementary School, has worked in Henry County Schools as an Instructional Coach and Assistant Principal and this is her 24th year in education. “I am excited to be the very proud principal of Woodland Elementary School. As Woodland Elementary School’s new principal, it is my top priority to provide our students with the best educational experience of their lives. I will always strive to challenge each student to grow in his or her academic ability. At WES, we will continue to enhance quality instruction, student achievement, teacher capacity, and growth of our Woodland Cluster community. I am eager to serve, support, teach, and learn with the students, faculty, staff, parents, and community. I look forward to our partnership as we show the world how aWESome we are at Woodland Elementary School.” M.W.

Alongside these new principals, are 44 dynamic veteran school leaders. All leaders are committed to the vision and mission of Henry County Schools and work collaboratively within clusters to implement our community-inspired strategic plan. Henry County is very fortunate and thankful to have the following principals serving our students, teachers, and community:

Dutchtown Cluster
Dr. Sherri Green -Dutchtown Elementary School

Arthur Blevins - Pates Creek Elementary School
Dr. Shaakira Akbar - Red Oak Elementary School
Gabe Wiley - Dutchtown Middle School
Nicole Shaw - Dutchtown High School

Eagles Landing Cluster
Dr. Toni Obenauf - Flippen Elementary

Tyrome Grant - Oakland Elementary School
Dr. Malik Douglas - Eagle’s Landing Middle School
Dr. Kesha Jones -Eagle’s Landing High School

Hampton Cluster
Dr. Johane St. Aime - Hampton Elementary School

Andy Pike - Mt. Carmel Elementary School
Sonya Ayannuga - Rocky Creek Elementary School
Dr. James Thornton – Hampton Middle School
Quinton Ward - Hampton High School

Locust Grove Cluster
Sparkle Smith - Locust Grove Elementary

Anne Wilson - Unity Grove Elementary
Melissa Thomas – Locust Grove Middle School
Tony Townsend – Locust Grove High

Luella Cluster
Dr. Jessalyn Askew - Bethlehem Elementary School

Dr. Carla Montgomery - Luella Elementary School
Mary Carol Stanley - Luella Middle School
Brandi Hardnett -Luella High School

McDonough Cluster
Dr. Jocelyn Lakani-Jones -Tussahaw Elementary School

Tamika Knighton – Walnut Creek Elementary School
Jodye Rowe-Callaway – Wesley Lakes Elementary School
Dr. Kimberly Kessinger – McDonough Middle School
Monica Blasingame – McDonough High School

Ola Cluster
Dr. Micki Foster -New Hope Elementary School

Amanda Cavin – Ola Elementary School
Julie Mosley – Rock Spring Elementary School
Christine Anderson- Ola Middle School
Nicholas Ellis – Ola High School

Stockbridge Cluster
Lois Barney – Austin Road Elementary School

Elyse Durden – Cotton Indian Elementary School
Dr. Vaneisa Benjamin – Fairview Elementary School
Dr. Carolyn Flemister-Oliver - Smith-Barnes Elementary School
Jermaine Ausmore - Stockbridge Elementary School
Libra Brittian – Austin Road Middle School
Yvette Christian – Stockbridge Middle School
Eric Watson – Stockbridge High School

Union Grove Cluster
Jennifer Laughridge – East Lake Elementary

Dana Flowers – Hickory Flat Elementary
Dr. Kristen McRae – Timber Ridge Elementary
Sean Thompson – Union Grove Middle School
Dr. Ryan Meeks – Union Grove High School

Woodland Cluster
Tracie Copper - Pleasant Grove Elementary

Makisha Williams – Woodland Elementary School
Michelle Wilkerson – Woodland Middle School
Purvis Jackson – Woodland High School

Special Programs
Dr. Douglas Blackwell – Academy of Advanced Studies

Steve Thompson – Impact Academy
Lila Brown – Excel Academy

Henry County School System is the largest employer in Henry County and our successful is a results of our amazing students and dynamic leaders, in conjunction with our supportive families and community. Therefore, please join us as we salute all fifty-two principals of Henry County Schools during the month of October, National Principals Month!