School Board Donna Gardner.jpg

Several McDowell County schools will have new principals when students return to class in the fall.

Donna Gardner, doctor of education and principal of West McDowell Middle School, is retiring after 29 years with McDowell County Schools and attended her last board meeting as a principal on Monday.

“We are certainly sad to lose her as a teacher, educator and leader in this district,” said Garrett.

Gardner started her teaching career in Yancey County. She came to McDowell County Schools in 1990 as a teacher at Marion Elementary School. She has served at West McDowell Middle School since July 2013. She received her education from Mars Hill College and Western Carolina University.

“She has done an outstanding job,” said Garrett. “If you want someone who is passionate about students, Dr. Gardner is a model to follow.”

Garrett presented her with a plaque in appreciation for her years of service and dedication.

“It has been my honor to serve the staff, the students, the families of McDowell County,” Gardner said at the meeting. “My heart will always be for the students and love them regardless.”

Following closed session, new principal assignments were announced by the board.

West Marion Elementary Principal Nakia Carson will take the place of Gardner at West.

"Mr. Carson's community connections are second to none, and with his skill set, we thought he would be a good fit for West McDowell," said Garrett.  

Stepping into Carson's role at West Marion will be Glenwood's principal Amy Dowdle.

"Amy has led Glenwood in a positive direction and we know she will take that spark into West Marion," said Garrett. 

At Glenwood, West Marion Elementary Assistant Principal Deeana Ray will take the lead as principal. 

"Deeana has been an assistant principal at West Marion and West McDowell which has helped her grow," said Garrett. 

Other principal changes include East McDowell Middle School Principal Jennifer Croymans heading to Nebo Elementary, and Nebo Elementary's principal Desarae Kirkpatrick going to East McDowell Middle.

"Jennifer has done a great job with East McDowell and this will give her a good foundation with elementary education," Garrett said. "Desarae has proven herself to build capacity, and I know she's looking for a different challenge at a different level."

Garrett added the committee took their time to find the right fit for everyone, and hopes the changes will help the district grow.

In other business:

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-Donna Pyatt was recognized for being selected as one of 27 teachers in North Carolina as a 2019-2020 Kenan Fellowship Program Award.  She will partner with Coats America and work with the company in a summer internship on building leadership, capacity and project-based learning.

-Adam Wiseman was recognized for meeting the requirements as a Certified Education Technology Leader.

-Advanced Placement teachers were recognized for having students make a 3 or higher on their AP exams. Those teachers are Angela Autrey, Wes Carpenter, Alan Grover, Stewart Massey, Missy Redmon, Rebecca Rideout, Joele Weaver, Catriona Young  and Lee Morris. Career and Technical Education teachers were recognized for their students’ achievements of state and national certifications. Those teachers are Angie Allison, Chad Brewer, Kristen Clark, Debra Hall, Barry McPeters, Keith Scholes and Staci Shaw.  

-Students with Foothills Community School (FCS) talked about their Passion Projects at Monday night’s board meeting. Four students talked about their projects in front of the school board. Those student presenters were Xander Gouge, Aubrey Kuykendall, Ben Shaw and Julia Givens.

-Teacher representative for the board Angela Autrey gave her last presentation as Teacher of the Year for 2018-2019. Renata Crawley is the county’s new Teacher of the Year.

-Retired Major Bob Smith addressed the board during the public comment section of the meeting. Smith was one of the many veterans involved in bringing the replica Veteran Wall, the American Veteran Traveling Tribute and helped design the McDowell County Salute to Veterans Memorial at the Senior Center. On Monday, he spoke to the board about honoring Gollie Leo Grant, of Old Fort, who died at the age of 22 in Vietnam as a hospitalman for the Navy supporting the Marines. Grant was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions overseas by laying down his life to save his fellow soldiers. Smith has requested that Grant is honored at the new Old Fort Elementary by naming the circular drive Gollie Grant Way, or by a small plaque at the flagpole, among other ideas. “Gollie was an example for students and adults alike,” said Smith. “I think this can be more than a teachable moment to instill service to one’s community and nation for our students.”

-Garrett updated the board on the project at Old Fort Elementary. Site prep is complete and footing is being installed ahead of masonry. “We are starting to see progress above ground,” said Garrett.

-Roofing bids for East McDowell Middle, Marion Elementary and P.G. Elementary were approved by a vote.

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New principal assignments were unanimously accepted by the McDowell County Board of Education, and a school board member turned in his resignation. 

At Monday night's school board meeting, members voted unanimously to have West Marion Elementary Principal Nakia Carson take the place of retiring West McDowell Middle School Principal Donna Gardner, doctor of education.

"Mr. Carson's community connections are second to none, and with his skill set, we thought he would be a good fit for West McDowell," said Superintendent Mark Garrett.  

Stepping into Carson's role at West Marion will be Glenwood's principal Amy Dowdle.

"Amy has led Glenwood in a positive direction and we know she will take that spark into West Marion," said Garrett. 

At Glenwood, West Marion Elementary Assistant Principal Deeana Ray will take the lead as principal. 

"Deeana has been an assistant principal at West Marion and West McDowell which has helped her grow," said Garrett. 

Other principal changes include East McDowell Middle School Principal Jennifer Croymans heading to Nebo Elementary, and Nebo Elementary's principal Desarae Kirkpatrick going to East McDowell Middle.

"Jennifer has done a great job with East McDowell and this will give her a good foundation with elementary education," Garrett said. "Desarae has proven herself to build capacity, and I know she's looking for a different challenge at a different level."

Garrett added the committee took their time to find the right fit for everyone.  

In other news, school board member Randy Williams turned in his resignation letter effective on Tuesday, June 11. He represents the Marion district. He would have held his seat until November 2020. The board can move to appoint a replacement until the election. 

"It's been an honor to serve the children of McDowell County," Williams told The McDowell News. 

More information on these changes will be updated this week at www.mcdowellnews.com

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