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When Sharon James moved with her family to Kentucky in 2005, she felt very lucky to land a teaching position at Bedford Elementary School the year the new building was opened.
That luck is carrying through four years later, as James was hired last week to be principal at Milton Elementary School, just in time for the transition from the old school to the brand-new building that opens in the fall.
James, who has been assistant principal at Kathryn Winn Primary School in Carroll County since 2006, said being a school administrator has always been one of her life’s goals.
“As a teacher, I felt I was making a positive impact on my students,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday, May 14. “And as an administrator, I feel I could have a positive impact on the whole school and in the community.”
A native of Lexington, Tenn., she and her husband, Wendell, lived in Charlotte, N.C., before they moved to Kentucky for his new job at North American Stainless in Ghent.
She had been an office worker until their children were born, and then was a stay-at-home mom, she said. When her children started school, she started volunteering in the classroom. Eventually she was hired as an aide and later became a substitute teacher.
One day, she said, “I just decided, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” and she enrolled in a local community college to become a teacher.
She was the first person on either side of her family to go to college. “When I left high school, I was never really expected to go to college,” she said. Now she holds two master’s degrees in addition to her bachelor’s degree.
“I’ve never regretted taking those years off [to raise her children],” she said. “I think it gave me the life experience I needed to do this. … It just shows you are never too old and it’s never too late to go to college.”
Both their children live in the area with their families. Richard, 31, has a 2-year-old son, and is a potter in Madison, Ind. Sarah, 28, daughter has two children.
“We have all three grandchildren here, and they come over and stay with us every Friday,” James said.
Despite recent turnover in the principal’s office at MES, which has been filled this year by interim Principal Deania Hurst, James said the faculty and staff “has done a great job in keeping the school running smoothly and keeping test scores high.”
So she doesn’t feel any pressure to step in and make any major changes. “My biggest goal as I begin my administration is to get to know the faculty and staff, and the students, and just become part of the Milton community.”
Trimble County Schools Superintendent Marsha Dunaway said she believes the Site Based Decision Making Council at the school made an excellent choice in recommending James for the position.
“We’re so excited,” Dunaway said Friday. “Ms. James is very people oriented and student oriented. I think she’s going to do an awesome job. She has leadership skills, knowledge of instruction and experience in administration. She’s a team player. I think she’s got what it takes, I really do.”
Shelley Ginn, a teacher at MES, chaired the site-based committee responsible for making the recommendation of a candidate for the position. She said the committee interviewed five candidates. “We did a survey of parents, faculty and staff and then we did our rankings and she scored the highest of the five,” Ginn said of James. “She had good leadership skills, oral and written skills.”
Committee members Jane Vandewater and Diane Wright were impressed with the new principal’s people skills during the interview process.
“She came across as very caring,” Vandewater said.
“I felt she communicated well with parents,” Wright added.
“I feel like she’ll be an excellent fit to our family at Milton,” Ginn said. “She’s very bubbly and enthusiastic!”
Lisa James, who is no relation to Sharon James, formerly served as principal in Milton. Lisa now serves as Carroll County Superintendent of Schools.
“Milton is a wonderful little school. I really enjoyed my time there,” she said. “I know with Sharon’s personality – she has a love in her heart for the kids, for the parents and staff – she’s going to do well there. They have a very dedicated staff at Milton and I know with Sharon they’ll go far.”
Staff writer Dave Taylor contributed information for this article.