Glynn County students return to school today, and they’ll sit down in new desks in new classrooms led by their new teachers.
And at some schools, students will meet their new principals.
Four schools in the district will be led by new principals this school year.
Joseph Depenhart will join the Glynn County Schools team this year as principal of the Golden Isles College and Career Academy.
Slade Turner will begin his first full school year as principal at Brunswick High. Rebecca Smith will return to Needwood Middle School as the new principal. And Wanda Shue will serve this year as the principal at Sterling Elementary School.
In the days leading up to the new school year, all four principals shared their excitement to take on these leadership roles this year.
“I’m anxious for the kids to get back in the building, so we can all do what we do best,” Shue said Tuesday.
Depenhart comes to GICCA this year after most recently serving as assistant principal and CTAE director at Toombs County High School in Lyons. Education is his second career, following a 22-year career in the U.S. Army. He worked in a leadership capacity during most of his time in the Army.
“To me, being an administrator is the best of both worlds,” Depenhart said. “I can be in leadership but still in education and affecting many people’s lives.”
Programs like GICCA offer an education that will be valuable to many students, he said, and help jump-start careers that are needed in today’s workforce.
“Before I was in high school, as a country as a whole in education, we got on this push that the mark of success was a four-year degree. ‘Trades’ almost became a dirty word,” he said. “And because of that, we got to a point where now we are pushing so many kids into postsecondary education that we have a deficit in the trades side.”
Employers across the country cannot find the skilled workers they need, he said, and GICCA provides the skills pathways as well as soft skills education that can propel a student into a career.
Depenhart credited the instructors at GICCA for the quality education students receive there.
“I’ve got teachers who have been in this building since it wasn’t a building,” he said. “They opened the doors on the first day 10 years ago.”
Turner officially took on the role of principal at Brunswick High during the spring semester of last school year, after Scott Spence retired.
He previously served as the assistant principal at the school. Prior to working as an assistant principal at Jane Macon Middle School, he taught at Brunswick High. He’s also a BHS alumnus.
“All of those experiences helped me be able to serve Brunswick High School students and understand our community better,” he said.
Turner said he’s prioritized bringing together the best staff possible. And while the role of principal comes with many challenges, he said he doubts many people understand how much fun the job can be.
“I don’t think people know how much fun it is to hang out with vibrant, young, creative people every day, all day,” he said. “… The best experience of last year was shaking every graduates’ hand as they crossed the stage. That is a unique experience that only a handful of people in the county can even say that they’ve experienced. That was exhilarating, and it was wonderful.”
Smith, who served the last three years on Glynn Academy’s administrative leadership team, feels a sense of homecoming as she begins in her role as principal at Needwood Middle School.
“My first school in Glynn County was Needwood, so I’m coming home,” she said. “It’s where I started as a teacher.”
Smith has worked for Glynn County Schools for 20 years. Through the various roles she’s held, she said she’s learned from many leaders.
At Needwood, she plans to focus on Tier 1 instruction, which is provided to all students, classroom management and professionalism.
“I’ve had a lot of really good principals that I’ve tried to learn from, and you’re always trying to take the best with you,” she said.
Shue is fairly new to Glynn County Schools but brings with her a 20-year career in education in the Cobb County School District. She began working with Glynn County Schools last year, when she worked as an intervention lead teacher at Golden Isles Elementary.
She plans to bring her vast experience working in all kinds of schools into her leadership role at Sterling Elementary.
“The vision I have for this school is I’m committed to high standards of instruction and learning,” she said. “I’m committed to the success of all students.”
Preparing for the new school year, she said she’s encouraged her staff to always remember the reasons they joined this profession.
“We’re remembering our ‘why’ — why we get up every day and do this very hard job that is hard yet so rewarding,” she said. “We have to remember why we do that.”