Kimberly Walton said she had to adjust to being the person ultimately responsible for hundreds of young students' welfare as well as the maintenance of the entire school building in her first year leading Hiram Elementary School.

However, a number of things also made her job enjoyable, such as her school’s kindergarten through fifth-grade students significantly increasing their reading scores.

The joy they showed when returning to school each day also was a motivation for her, Walton said.

“Seeing the smiles across the faces as students get off the bus in the morning makes it all worthwhile,” she said. “I feel very blessed to be here.”

Walton worked 18 years as a special education teacher in Carroll and Paulding counties before serving the past four years as an assistant principal at Hiram Elementary.

She was promoted in 2018 to lead the 850-student school and replaced Paul Wilder, who moved to be principal of C.A. Roberts Elementary in Dallas.

Her familiarity with the school on Seaboard Avenue gave her an advantage coming into this school year because of the relationships she already had with staff members and parents, she said.

“I think we have the best staff in the county,” Walton said.

Walton credited the Paulding school district’s embrace of its Literacy by Design program for Hiram students’ major increases in their Lexile reading scores throughout the year.

“That’s really been a high point -- to see these kids grow,” Walton said.

A Lexile score is a number given to a specific piece of reading material based on its complexity. Students in each grade level are expected to be able to read and comprehend material within a range of Lexile scores assigned to their grade level.

The Paulding district began the Literacy by Design program after receiving $4 million from the state’s $61 million Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia (L4GA) Grant, which was funded by the federal government.

It allowed Paulding to introduce programs such as System 44 and Read 180, which are designed to help students who are significantly behind or have learning challenges to improve reading scores, Walton said.

“They had a huge jump from the start of school,” she said.

Walton said she worked as an assistant principal for four years but still was surprised in her new job by the amount of paperwork required and the number of deadlines which must be met.

The principal is ultimately responsible for the welfare of the students, including making sure all get to and from school safely, Walton said.

She also is responsible for the maintenance of the school building, including making sure the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system is working properly, and the plumbing and electrical systems are operating, she said.

“It’s up to you to take care of electrical issues before the kids get there,” Walton said. “You just don’t think of the amount of things that could occur.”

A Georgia native, Walton earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Old Dominion University in Virginia and her doctorate from Nova University.

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