The Cobb County School District Board of Education on Thursday approved hiring 51-year-old Phil Wilkes as the new principal at Dodgen in east Cobb, where he has been serving in various roles since 1987.
“Never in my wildest dreams 28 years ago would I have thought that I would be the principal at Dodgen, but I’m very excited about this opportunity,” Wilkes said Sunday. “We have such a great staff and students and parent involvement here.”
The school serves about 1,200 students in sixth through eighth grades and employs about 100 teachers.
Wilkes will be replacing Robin Lattizori, who was appointed as east Cobb’s new area assistant superintendent in July. His first day on the job is “to be determined” while district staff continues to shift everyone into their new positions.
Wilkes decided to be a teacher after working with little league baseball players in high school.
“I actually started with an electrical engineering degree in college but I loved working with those kids and found that I had a passion for teaching,” he said.
He earned a bachelor of science degree from Kennesaw State University, a master’s from the University of West Georgia and an educational leadership certificate.
Wilkes has been an assistant principal at Dodgen since 2009 and prior to that was an assistant administrator and teacher since 1987. His career in Cobb Schools began in 1985 as a teacher at Big Shanty Elementary in Kennesaw.
He has also coached football, baseball and softball at Walton and Sprayberry high schools, and while growing up in Cobb County attended Bells Ferry Elementary School, Daniell Middle School and graduated from Sprayberry in 1980.
“I’ve been a part of the Cobb County School District for about 40 years if you include me attending the schools here for 12 years, too,” Wilkes said.
His wife, Candace, is also a Cobb native and is the principal at Lost Mountain Middle School in Kennesaw.
Challenges in his new role include shifting students’ scores on standardized tests from the “meets” categories to the “exceeds” categories and juggling his administrative duties, like responding to parent emails and phone calls, while still being visible in the school halls.
“I want to make sure we have a high performing school … make sure that rigor and relevance is still there,” Wilkes said. “I also like to be out and about in the building and know what’s going on. I’m a very face-to-face person like that.”
Wilkes’ presence in the school is why Dodgen’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association president Patsy Hattori was pleased to hear that he was named the new principal.
“Coach Wilkes has a long tenure at Dodgen Middle School and knowing that he understands and promotes the community feel of the school and that it would continue to be an integral part of what makes Dodgen thrives, that’s the biggest reason I support this selection,” she said.
Hattori has one daughter who just finished eighth grade at Dodgen and a second who is a seventh grader this year. They were happy with the choice as well.
“I think they still get a little nervous around him because he is a man of discipline, but you want your kids to be a little afraid of the administration, knowing that they don’t want to be in his office, but also know that he’s fair, caring and encouraging,” she said.