Editor’s Note: Below is a list of Q&As that the Cobb County School District published on several new principals.

Dr. Dana Giles, Pebblebrook High


Dana Giles

Why are you excited about joining the Pebblebrook High School community?

“Transitioning from Lindley Middle School, I am excited to still be serving the students of the Mableton community. Pebblebrook is a staple in this community. The school’s academic focus, highly-decorated Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts program and competitive athletics program attract students from all over the county. I am excited to be a part of this rich heritage.”

What does student success look like for you?

“In high school, student success is obtaining a high school diploma along with being post-secondary and/or employable ready. This is accomplished by providing students a high-quality instructional learning space that is safe, creative and encouraging. When these components are in place, student success is the obvious outcome.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal?

“I operate as the Chief Learner in the building. No one should be learning, growing and developing more than the leader of the building. My job is multifaceted and amazing. I love that I get to continually learn alongside others who share my passion for student success.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members run into you?

“I have three amazing children (two in college and one in high school) who keep me active. I work out 3-4 times a week, so the gym is my second home. Finally, I’m highly involved and invested in my church and love singing and leading worship there.”

Travis Joshua, Lindley Middle


Travis Joshua

Why are you excited about joining the Lindley Middle School community?

“I am honored to have been selected to join the Lindley Middle School staff and believe that this is a homecoming of sorts after starting my career as principal at Lindley Sixth Grade Academy. I consider the opportunity to stick and stay in Mableton to lead the next Flock of Falcons to be very exciting. Lindley Middle continues to soar to higher heights! With Lindley’s newly developed STEM Academy, it truly is a great day to be a Falcon!”

What can the school community expect to see under your leadership?

“My goal is to ensure that every Lindley Middle School scholar is equipped with the tools necessary to continue along their educational journey and see their wildest dreams become a reality. This all begins with the Falcon Family working together to instill a belief mindset in the students each and every day. I look forward to following in the footsteps of Dr. Giles and continuing all of the great work that commenced under her leadership.”

What does student success look like for you?

“Having a growth mindset, success looks different for each student and is not solely based on academic performance data. Students are experiencing success when they are making every effort to meet expectations set for them by their families first, followed by the school. As educators, it is our job to meet students where they are and help them to progress from that point. Students that are progressing in this manner are successful in my book.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal?

“The 2019-20 school year will mark my 21st year as an educator, but I consider myself to be more of a learning engineer as I strive to create environments and circumstances in which young scholars are able to thrive. I also consider the work we do as educators to not just be a profession, but our passion and certainly not just a career but a higher calling.”

Dr. Andy Bristow, Durham Middle


Andy Bristow

Why are you excited about joining the Durham Middle School community?

“I am excited about joining the Durham Middle School community and working with the school’s staff, students, parents and community partners to continue Durham’s long tradition of excellence. I’m impressed by the way Durham students embrace academic success and the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program, which aims to improve social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students. Moving forward, I want to continue the traditions and give all students opportunities to achieve even higher academic success.”

What does student success look like for you?

“Student success is defined by each individual student and their goals and aspirations. Success can be found in the classroom, within the community through organizations or in extracurricular activities. I believe when students are able to obtain success in any area, it increases their opportunity for growth and success in other areas of their lives.”

What do you like most about being an educator and principal?

“I like getting to know the students and seeing their growth over the years. As an educator, I get to see a student transform and often get to see the proverbial light turn on when they are able to get a concept or master a subject. I also get to share in their joy of learning and reaching success.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members find you?

“My wife and I are very active and are often running trails, out walking within the community or attending community events.”

Dr. Loralee Hill, Griffin Middle


Loralee Hill

Why are you excited about joining the Griffin school community?

“I am very excited about joining the Griffin school community because it feels like coming back home for me. I previously owned a home in this community for four years, and I love and wholeheartedly embrace Smyrna. Griffin Middle School has great leaders, awesome teachers and fantastic students. I look forward to working with Griffin parents, partners in education and the entire community to ensure student success. Griffin’s vision to advocate for and empower the learning for all students speaks to my core values, and I look forward to humbly serving the entire Griffin community.”

What does student success look like for you?

“Student success means providing our students with the skills necessary to be successful in whatever they choose to pursue. Middle school is a challenging time for our students, so providing opportunities for our students to grow academically, socially, emotionally and cognitively is critical.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal?

“I love being a principal because I have an opportunity to serve our students and serve those who teach our students. It really is the best job in the world because I get to work with students and with those committed to student success: staff, parents and the entire community.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members find you?

“I love to be outside and hike whenever I get an opportunity. I also am a huge sports fan, and I cheer for the Atlanta Braves, Atlanta United, Atlanta Falcons and (the University of Georgia). I support the community, so you may run into me at a coffee shop, restaurant or a local store in Smyrna!”

Dr. Kevin Carpenter, Cheatham Hill Elementary


Kevin Carpenter

Why are you excited about joining the Cheatham Hill Elementary community?

“I’m excited because I know that the community itself is extremely involved in the school. I’m excited about coming in and continuing the excellence that has already been established there. It’s a great opportunity to have an impact on a wide range of kids.”

What does student success look like to you?

“Student success looks like empowering and inspiring students to be their best daily, and that also trickles to the staff, as well, finding out what their best is and really empowering them so they can pass it on to the students. As long as we provide those opportunities for the kids to really know themselves and how to be their best, I know I have done my job.”

What role in your past experience best qualifies you for the position of principal?

“I’ve had the opportunity to be a substitute teacher, a paraprofessional, a teacher and an assistant principal — all in the school district. So, I have a perspective from almost every position in the school. When I was a paraprofessional, I worked in an autism classroom with students with special needs and then I taught fifth grade. I have had a real opportunity to see that no matter where kids are coming from, they deserve our absolute best. I feel that I have the tools and resources to really understand what our teachers can do to make sure students are performing to their best ability.”

What books will students see on your office shelf?

“The books I probably talk the most about with the kids are probably the Harry Potter books. I’ve always been a fan of all the books, all the movies as well and so it is always a great conversation piece with the kids, but my favorite book that I always talk about with students that I had growing up is “Where the Red Fern Grows.” It’s one of those books that the emotions of it stick with you the rest of your life, and it is a great connection with the kids.”

Paul Gillihan, Wheeler High


Paul Gillihan

Why are you excited about joining the Wheeler school community?

“Having been in CCSD for 13 years, I have seen firsthand the amazing things that Wheeler has accomplished in regards to their STEM and STEAM initiatives. This would not have been possible without the support of the Wheeler community. What I have witnessed reminds me of where I grew up in northern Arkansas where the entire community surrounded and supported the school. I see this at Wheeler and can’t wait to jump in as the newest community member.”

What does student success look like for you?

“As a parent of four boys, each with their own learning abilities and struggles, I know that success means different things for each individual. Student success can be when a student excels academically, or it can also be when a student triumphs athletically or socially. Each student must be taught the skills needed to pursue their dreams and goals. As educators, it is our responsibility to guide them in the discovery and honing of these skills so that upon graduation they can continue to grow and prosper no matter where their path leads.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal? Is there a memory as an educator that you treasure the most?

“Now that some of my former students are teachers and parents, it makes me so proud to see what they are accomplishing and how they have transformed into such amazing citizens. Just this past year, one of my students who was on my softball team was named Teacher of the Year in her Cobb County School. Being able to speak with her and her parents at the Teacher of the Year festivities has to be one of my most memorable educator moments.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members find you?

“With three sons who are still in school in Cobb and each with different interests, I can generally be found at one of their events, be that school related or with their church youth group. On a rare occasion when there is not a pressing parental duty, I enjoy being outside and love to travel and visit historical places — history teacher coming out in me.”

Jenny Douglas, Vaughan Elementary


Jenny Douglas

Why are you excited about joining the Vaughan school community?

“Vaughan Elementary has a well-deserved, outstanding reputation in the community for academic achievement. They are a Cobb STEM Certified School and are well on their way to achieving AdvancED STEM Certification. I am excited to be a part of their STEM journey! My No. 1 goal this first year is to build relationships with every child and demonstrate to Vaughan that I genuinely care about all children.”

What does student success look like for you?

“Serving as part of an elementary school team is an amazing opportunity to collaborate with students, staff and families in creating engaging academic experiences while addressing the social and emotional needs of our learners. We know students are experiencing success when they love coming to school, feel safe and cared for and are meeting their academic potential.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal?

“I value innovation and creativity as a means to engage students in learning and bring joy and passion to the work of teachers. I believe we can model for our students that risk-taking and exploration of new ideas can be rewarding. We can teach our students to never be afraid to experience failure. Failure is simply an opportunity to learn and grow. I enjoy the opportunity to prepare our students for these lessons that will serve them well throughout their lives.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members find you?

“I enjoy kayaking on Lake Allatoona, walking trails at Kennesaw Mountain and shopping at antique stores.”

Dr. Shannon McGill, Timber Ridge Elementary


Shannon McGill

Why are you excited about joining the Timber Ridge school community?

“It is such a privilege to return to a school community that played a large part in shaping me into the leader I am today. Timber Ridge holds a special place in my heart and serving the students and staff is an opportunity to say thank you and give back to such an amazing school community. As principal, I want the community to view Timber Ridge as a welcoming and friendly school where visitors can’t help but feel the excitement and know that great things are happening!”

What does student success look like to you?

“Student success is seeing ALL students make progress socially, emotionally and academically — no matter where they begin. Success is ensuring that students are equipped with the skills needed to thrive by teaching them to problem solve, collaborate, think critically and demonstrate empathy for others.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal?

“The thing I love most about being a principal is most definitely the STUDENTS! Seeing the progress students make from pre-K through fifth grade is very rewarding. Being surrounded each day by funny, curious and eager young people makes this the best job on Earth!”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members run into you?

“When I am not at school, you might find me on the tennis court, at the beach or cheering for the Georgia Bulldogs or Atlanta Braves.”

Dr. Benji Morrell, Pickett’s Mill Elementary


Benji Morrell

Why are you excited about joining the Pickett’s Mill Elementary community?

“It’s a blessing to become a member of the Pickett’s Mill family. They have created a culture of excellence at the school over the last 11 years, and I look forward to working with the teachers, students, parents and community business partners as we continue to build on such a great foundation.”

What does student success look like to you?

“I think student success looks different for every student. I do believe that if every student enjoys coming to school, enjoys learning and builds positive relationships with their peers and adults in the building, the academic gains will come.”

What role in your past experience has best prepared you for your new position at Pickett’s Mill Elementary?

“I was very lucky to open Allatoona High School as an assistant principal and athletic director the same year that Pickett’s Mill opened in 2008. Pickett’s Mill feeds 100% into Allatoona High School. So, we were very involved with the Pickett’s Mill students and staff. I feel like that bond will carry over as I move into the role of principal at Pickett’s Mill.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members run into you?

“They will find me in the community. My family actually lives in the Pickett’s Mills school district. So, they will see me at ball fields. They will see me at games. They will see me all over. One of my kids is a seventh grader at Durham Middle School, and the other one is a freshman at Allatoona High School. They both came through Pickett’s Mill Elementary.”

Nathan Stark, Kennesaw Mountain High


Nathan Stark

Why are you excited about being principal of Kennesaw Mountain High School?

“I’ve been at Kennesaw Mountain High School for four years as an assistant principal. I’m really excited to step into the role as principal. It is a great school that has a lot going on. It has great community support and the kids do amazing things at the school.”

What does student success look like to you?

“Student success is a lot of things. Obviously, we want students to be successful in the classroom and reach their goals. There are also a lot of things outside of the classroom — arts, athletics, that community service piece and leadership — which combine with the students meeting their goals in the classroom to demonstrate student success.”

Where might the community see you on the weekend?

“I’m a big sports fan. I love watching all kinds of different sports and getting involved that way. I have young ones, 8, 7, and 4. So, we are out a lot on weekends participating in different athletic events. I have a very supportive family that encourages me. I look for opportunities to care for the students in my school like I care for my own family.”

What else might the Kennesaw Mountain community not know about you?

“I started as a computer engineer student at the Georgia Institute of Technology for my undergrad but decided to switch and go into education. I’m finishing up my 17th year in Cobb. I worked 10 years as a math teacher and this is my seventh year as an assistant principal. I’m also a Cobb graduate — Wheeler High School Class of 1997.”

Cissi Kale, Due West Elementary


Cissi Kale

Why are you excited about joining the Due West Elementary School community?

“I live in the west Cobb community, and I love the community. The people in the community are so vested in making the community where they live, work, play — better. I live there, too, and I want the schools to be the best they can be. I’m really excited about all the traditions at Due West Elementary School and continuing to support what they are already doing and looking for a way to make something is already great even better.”

What does student success look like to you?

“Student success is when kids are excited about learning and excited about their growth and getting better. Everyone can get better every day. We all have something we can do every day to grow and reach to a higher notch. I love seeing kids get excited about growing 100 points on a test or growing because they were able to run faster.”

What’s one of your favorite memories of being an educator?

“A great memory was when a former student called and said she was the STAR student when she was a senior. Having her call and say you helped me get to this point, even though she was only in fourth grade when I taught her, that was huge. She remembered me and she felt like I helped her achieve her STAR student success.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members find you?

“They would probably find me at a baseball field. My son plays JV baseball for Hillgrove and my other child plays travel ball at Big Shanty park. We are always out in the west Cobb community where we live. We are very active in the community.”

Dr. Patricia Alford, Dodgen Middle


Patricia Alford

Why are you excited about joining the Dodgen school community?

“I have worked exclusively with middle school students for my entire career. I love this age! Dodgen is an outstanding school, and I’m excited to serve the students and staff in the community where I live! My goal as a leader is to continue and extend that academic success by providing the very best education and academic environment for our students.”

What does student success look like to you?

“When students are being successful, they are involved in the school community and enjoy coming to school. Most importantly, they are confident so that they can be resilient when they encounter challenges.”

What do you like most about being an educator/principal?

“Without a doubt, it’s the kids. I love the hopefulness that kids have about the future and the joy that comes with learning new skills. I love that every day is different and exciting when you work with students.”

Outside school, where might students, parents or staff members run into you?

“I may meet you on a local tennis court for an ALTA or USTA match, or I’m supporting my children in their activities. My two boys are highly involved in their school music programs, and both are also year-round swimmers.”

Alvin Thomas, Tapp Middle


Alvin Thomas

Why are you excited to join the Tapp Middle School community?

“Tapp is a direct feeder into McEachern High School. So, I’m excited because I get to stay in the McEachern High School community where I have been for the last four years, and I get to help both McEachern and Tapp grow and achieve the goal of student success. I also started my career off in a middle school.”

What does student success look like?

“Student success is when students are happy about school and themselves. Student success is when students are ready for the next phase of being a student and ultimately adulthood.”

Why is being an educator so important to you?

“I always knew that I wanted to work with people and inspire people and lead. Being from a small town, I realized the impact of education. I’m here because of school. I’m here because my teachers and my community invested in me. I wanted to be able to do that same thing for students. Education is who I am, it is what I am and it is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life until I can’t do it anymore.”

Where might parents and students find you in the community?

“I have a 3-year-old daughter, and so, she is starting to venture into sports and dance. So, you will find me somewhere with her and my wife. My wife is an educator as well. I also enjoy exercising. So, you may see me out running.”


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