The 44-year-old educator with 20 years of teaching experience was named the middle school’s new leader after a unanimous vote by the Board of Education of the City of Marietta in a special meeting Friday morning.
She has been the ninth-grade assistant principal at Marietta High School for the last two years, and with the city school system for 13 years.
“She will be a really good fit at the middle school because she knows exactly where these kids need to be before they reach ninth grade academically,” said Board Chair Randy Weiner. “She knows the rigor in the ninth grade, so she will know how to best prepare them for that rigor.”
Taylor is replacing Tim Jones, who accepted a position as the new principal at B.E.S.T (Business, Engineering, Science and Technology) Academy High School in the Atlanta Public Schools system.
She was one of two candidates the board considered for the position, Weiner said. The other was Raquel Rimpola, an elementary school principal with Atlanta Public Schools.
“They were both very strong candidates but just had different leadership styles,” Weiner said.
“Forrestella’s leadership in initiatives focused on student transition from middle school to ninth grade, and implementation of blended learning opportunities such as the Quest (Performance Learning Center) at Marietta High School provide her with a strong experience base in working with middle school students and educators,” said Marietta Superintendent Emily Lembeck.
At the high school, Taylor was making $83,637 a year. Her salary will jump to $104,414 a year as the new middle school principal.
Getting the go-ahead
Taylor said that as soon as she got word that the board had selected her as the new principal, she began closing out any unfinished business at Marietta High and held a meeting with the middle school administrators.
“I wanted to make sure that some of the things we have in place (at the high school) continue,” she said. “That was very important to me. I also met with the staff at Marietta Middle to find out what needs to happen and what has taken place.”
She also spent her weekend — and birthday — moving out of her high school office and into her middle school office.
Taylor said she applied for the position at Marietta Middle because she believes her experience at the high school and elementary school levels provides her with the skills she’ll need to best prepare the adolescent learner for what they need in the early and final stages in order to be successful.
“Having the beginning and the end will ultimately address what needs to happen at the middle-school level to be college and career ready and also lifelong learners,” she said Sunday.
Some of her challenges and goals will be to make sure all stakeholders, including parents, teachers and students, are on the same page and that their roles are to continue improvement at the school. She also plans to re-examine some practices to make sure they are providing students with a high level of rigor.
Good fit for Marietta Middle
Marietta High Principal Leigh Colburn said she’s sorry to see Taylor leave but believes the board’s selection will allow for there to be a seamless transition for students from middle to high school in the future.
“With her experience in elementary and high school, she will understand where these kids are coming from and how to prepare them for high school and more specifically our ninth grade,” Colburn said. “She’s going to be one of the best things that’s ever happened for the middle school, and I’m really excited for them.”
As part of the district’s push to improve its graduation rates, they are focusing on achievement during the freshman year, because data shows that ninth-graders who don’t do well are more likely to drop out of high school.
“There is nobody better primed to do that in our district that Forrestella,” Colburn said. “She has been a tremendous impact at the high school for the last two years and will take all that experience with her to the middle school.”
Colburn also complimented Taylor’s “strong” instruction, her focus on being data driven, her “incredible” energy, passion and commitment, and her way of “masterfully” finding the balance between working closely with teachers, students and parents.
“She innately is able to connect with all of those parties really, really well and get them all on the same page,” she said.
Taylor has worked at Marietta High since 2011, served as an assistant principal at A.L. Burruss and Dunleith elementary schools from 2005 to 2011, and was an elementary school teacher at Lockheed Elementary and the former Pine Forest Elementary, which is now Marietta Center for Advanced Academics.
She also taught at elementary schools in the Burlington Township Schools and Trenton Public Schools districts, both in New Jersey, for seven years before coming to Marietta.
Taylor earned her bachelor’s degree at Howard University in Washington, D.C., master’s from Kennesaw State University, a professional certification in educational leadership for grades preschool through 12, and a specialist in educational leadership from Argosy University.