At a Wednesday morning faculty meeting at Thomas County Central High School, Principal Ken Harper announced his retirement effective June 30, 2014.
“A person works their entire life toward retirement and before you realize it thirty years have passed and you are faced with a tough decision to leave a school system that you have cherished for many years,” Harper said. “I have met a lot of people who have become dear friends during my time at Thomas County Central High School. I want to thank the Board of Education and superintendent, Dr. (Dusty) Kornegay, for allowing me the opportunity to serve as principal.
Harper joined the faculty of Central High School in 1984 as a social studies teacher and assistant football coach after having taught for one year in Elbert County. He was a member of the coaching staff that produced Thomas County’s five state championship football teams of the 1990s. Harper earned a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Valdosta State University in 1998. In 1999, he was named assistant principal of Thomas County Central High School, a position that he held until 2011, when he was named principal. Harper holds degrees from Toccoa Falls College, the University of Georgia and two graduate degrees from Valdosta State University.
“Mr. Harper has served the Thomas County School System for 30 years. During those many years, he has touched thousands of lives. He loves the Yellow Jackets and will always be a part of our school system family. I congratulate Mr. Harper on reaching this milestone in his life, and I hope that he will continue to attend our ballgames and other school functions. Mr. Harper has a heart of gold and would do anything that he can to help any student or faculty member,” said Kornegay.
Under Harper’s leadership, TCCHS was the only high school in Georgia to earn a prestigious recruitment and relocation grant from the federal government. Harper has also led the implementation of the new Teacher Keys Effectiveness System at the high school. TCCHS had a record number of students selected to the prestigious Georgia Governor’s Honors Program last year, and under Harper’s leadership the school has seen increased student academic performance in several areas.
Thomas County Central High School Assistant Principal Trista Jones has been appointed principal designee to assume the principalship of TCCHS effective July 1, 2014.
Jones earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia in 1992, and joined the faculty of Thomas County Central High School that fall as a French teacher. She earned a master’s degree in educational leadership from Valdosta State University in 1997 and an educational specialist degree from Valdosta State University in 2004. She was named assistant principal of Thomas County Central High School in 2004. Jones is completing her ninth year as an assistant principal in the Thomas County School District.
“I am so pleased to have someone of Trista’s caliber within our school system to step into this important role. She started her career here at Central and has worked her way through the ranks, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. First and foremost, she is a great teacher. She is gifted intellectually, has a heart for high school students, and has a passion for making our system the best. She is familiar with the high school and the high school faculty and students are familiar with her strong leadership. We know that great things will continue to happen for our students, staff, and community under her leadership,” Kornegay said.
Kornegay recommended Jones to be Harper’s replacement at a Tuesday meeting of the Thomas County Board of Education. Kornegay’s recommendation was unanimously approved. Since this was a promotion from within the school, no formal application process was required.
Kornegay said, “Jones was the logical choice for this position. Having taught at the high school for 12 years, followed by nine years of very successful experience as an assistant principal, Jones became involved in a New Principals Academy this year as part of our succession planning. We believe that this will be the smoothest transition possible for our faculty, staff and students,” Kornegay said.
Upon her appointment, Jones said, “I am grateful to (Dr.) Kornegay and the Thomas County Board of Education for granting me the opportunity to serve as the leader of the school that I love. I have been a Yellow Jacket for my entire career and want nothing but the best for Thomas County Central High School’s students and staff members. Some of the best educators and people I have ever known mentored me throughout my career and I thank them for their guidance and support. I commit myself to taking what I have learned from them and serving TCCHS as they have.”
Harper thinks his successor will do a fine job.
“The Board of Education could not have made a better choice than naming Trista Jones as principal of Thomas County Central High School,” he said. “Trista loves TCCHS and has the staff and students best interest at heart. I've never known anyone to have such an understanding of high school curriculum as she does.
“I feel Trista will be an outstanding principal for our high school.