Jessica Appleyard, 39, was approved by the Cobb County School Board on Wednesday as the east Cobb elementary school’s new principal. Her first day was Thursday and she replaces Joan Nicholson, who moved to Nicholson Elementary in June.
Retired Cobb Deputy Superintendent Alice Stouder has served as interim principal at Mt. Bethel since school started last Thursday.
Appleyard was one of 27 applicants for the position and one of five people from within Cobb Schools.
She moved into her office Wednesday afternoon after the board’s vote and said she is thrilled to be returning back “home.”
Mt. Bethel, which is off Johnson Ferry Road in east Cobb and serves approximately 1,000 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, is where Appleyard said she started her career in education in 1996.
“When I graduated from the University of Georgia in 1996 there were no teaching job openings in Cobb County, so I accepted a position (at Mt. Bethel) as a paraprofessional and was charged with developing one of the first elementary school Spanish programs,” Appleyard said.
The following year she became a teacher at Mt. Bethel. She stayed at Mt. Bethel until 2006 when she was named the east Cobb area lead teacher, then again she was promoted to an assistant administrator and was principal at Sope Creek Elementary from 2008 until this week.
She chose to seek positions as an administrator after earning a master’s in education from Kennesaw State University and certificate in educational leadership.
“I love getting to make a connection with the families and kids,” Appleyard said about her choice to be an administrator. “With a low rate of transiency in our area, we also get to watch our students grow from kindergarten to fifthgraders.”
She does understand that with this new position, challenges will present themselves, especially with the student population.
Mt. Bethel has 1,000 students and only two administrators. Appleyard said with that number of students, schools usually qualify for a third administrator.
“That can be challenging, but I know we can do it,” she said.
Another challenge will also be to aid teachers as best she can over the next year, especially in mathematics.
“We need to support the teachers through this new curriculum change and it would be wonderful if we could have materials to help,” she said, referring to the new Common Core state standards that went into effect last school year.
Appleyard is talking about the school board’s recent decision to reduce the number of math materials it will make available to teachers throughout the district.
The $2.9 million approved purchase in July, which was originally valued at more than $7 million and included all math resources, was scaled down to only some math books and online materials after the board voted it down in April. There were concerns surrounding the relationship between the math resources and Common Core Standards.
Yet Appleyard is still excited about what this school year will offer for her, her staff and students.
“I look forward to building these relationships back with the Mt. Bethel community and having a wonderful year,” she said Thursday.
Stouder, who has worked with Appleyard in many roles ever since she first became an educator, believes the district’s choice in placing Appleyard at Mt. Bethel was great.
“I think it’s an excellent move for the students, teachers and community,” Stouder said. “They are very excited, she was very well received (on her first day) and (Thursday) night was her first Open House, so she hit the door running yesterday.”
Stouder said Appleyard’s “child-centered” frame of mind when working with elementary schools students, her innovativeness and knowledge of technology needs in the classrooms also make her a perfect fit for this job.
Before joining the Mt. Bethel staff, Appleyard was an assistant principal and assistant administrator at Sope Creek Elementary, also in east Cobb, and she served as an Area 3 Lead Teacher.
In this new role, her salary will increase from $67,918 to $83,426 a year.