By Natalie Simms
Dr. Jeffrey Wilson will take the helm of Floyd County Schools on July 1, bringing his 30 years of education that run the gamut from K-12 experiences to college teaching to state level work.
“Knew early that I enjoyed working with kids…involved in YMCA Day Camps and coaching and really found my gifts and talents went toward education,” says Wilson, who was selected last month to replace retiring Superintendent Dr. John Jackson. Wilson comes to Floyd from White County Schools where he has served as superintendent since 2011.
“I especially have had an interest in special education and educational psychology,” he adds. “I do have the traditional education experience in teaching, assistant principal, principal and up to superintendent.
“But, I’ve also had opportunity to work in the Educational Psychology world and help open a treatment center in Georgia. I’ve had opportunities in higher education and at the State Department of Education in South Carolina. But every time I got away from working directly with kids, I would always find my way back to them.”
A native of Anderson, S.C., Wilson holds a bachelor of Arts degree in Education, a masters degree of Education, and a doctorate of Education from Clemson University. He also earned a post-doctorate degree in Educational Leadership from Columbus State University. Most of his classroom experience is in Special Education, including serving as a professor at Clemson University and later Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Penn.
“I’ve also worked with the State Department of Education in South Carolina, where I worked with accreditation of universities and colleges, as well as helped develop state standards,” he says.
“ I see Floyd County like White…it’s a good system with the potential to be a great system. There is tremendous potential to do great things for the kids,” he says.
Wilson will bring a three-prong approach to the job.
“Relationships are first, knowing the students and staff is important. Then, you have to value all of them … every kid has the potential to learn and then inspire the kids. Most students are engaged in other things besides academics like athletics, art, music, so you have to really inspire the mind, spirit and soul,” he says.
As far as challenges go, Wilson sees technology and post-graduation philosophies as a few.
“We are now competing with technologies, so we will have to take a look at what it takes to engage kids. We may have to change the way we do things because of the way kids are reacting to technology,” he says.
“We also have to change what we as parents think. Not every child needs a four-year liberal arts degree. These days, employers say ‘Show me what you can do’, not ‘What degree do you have?’. For some, that may be a four-year college degree and for some it may be a two-year tech school. We may have to rethink how we do what we do and bring more college into the classroom.”
Overall, Wilson will have high expectations for the Floyd students and is focused on student achievement and growth to success.
“We will be focused on what do they (students) need and how can we help them get there? It all goes back to relationships. As students, we understand the content because of the teachers…wasn’t because we just naturally liked history or math, but that they built relationships with students and parents. Parents get behind teachers who treat their children right,” he says.
“I believe my relationships should be strong with principals and then that becomes strong relationships with teachers and then strong relationships with students and parents.”
But while Wilson plans to look at student data to set goals for the school system, he is not just about test scores.
“I will be looking at both ends of the spectrum…the lowest end of 20-25% of students and the highest end of 20-25% of students…looking at the data and setting goals,” he says. “We are not just about the Georgia Milestones test. If we teach well every day and teach the standards, the scores will take care of itself. It’s not all about the scores, but about student growth and learning and what we need to do differently so students can learn.”
Wilson and his wife, Karen, are looking forward to getting settled into the Rome and Floyd County community and get started on working with the schools. The Wilsons also have two grown daughters, one is a student at the University of North Georgia and other is a UGA graduate currently working in Spain.
“I had a lot of opportunities available and was very careful about where to apply. I heard a lot of good things about Rome and Floyd County community and I’ve found it all to be true. There are lots of good people who care about kids. It will be an easy place to get behind kids and the school system,” he says.
“Floyd has a fantastic school board. They ask good questions and make good decisions for the kids. They are each very different and bring different pieces of the puzzle to make it complete…they have a good heart for kids. It’s a very cohesive group and I’m excited to have the opportunity to partner with them.”