Nelson set to transition from principal role into Bartow County athletic director

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After spending two decades at Cass High School, Mike Nelson is ready to take on a new challenge.

The Cass High principal for the past dozen years, Nelson will take over as the Bartow County School System's Coordinator of Administrative Services on July 1.

He will replace the retiring Jim Gottwald in the role that encompasses several components, most notably acting as county athletic director and being in charge of discipline for the district.

“I’ve been at Cass High, really, 20 of my 23 years,” Nelson said over the phone Wednesday. “As I get to the end of my career, it’s just an opportunity to do something different and to have a bigger impact on the district as a whole. I just saw it as a new challenge and a new opportunity.”

Nelson, who will be replaced at Cass by Stephen Revard, went through the same interview process as most positions within the Bartow County School System, ending with board of education approval. Asked about his pitch to superintendent Phillip Page, who conducted the interview, Nelson said he touted his experience in all aspects of the school system.

“I felt like I brought a great deal of experience with the Bartow County School System, in terms of how the system works, but also having a background in athletics."

While he's happy to start a new position, Nelson admitted it will be difficult to leave Cass High after all these years — and even more difficult to leave those he has worked alongside.

“It’s a sad situation leaving not coworkers but a large group of friends that does great things for students,” he said. “It is bittersweet from that standpoint, but I know with Mr. Revard, he’ll do a great job. He has a great staff to work with over there, and together they’re going to continue the successes that we’ve been able to establish there over the last several years, as well.”

As the county athletic director, Nelson will work closely with those in charge of the middle and high school programs. He'll coordinate mostly with Adairsville High's Meredith Barnhill, Cass High's Nicky Moore and Woodland High's John Howard.

Unsurprisingly, Nelson said he has a strong relationship with Moore. But he added that he also has worked with both Barnhill and Howard in the past.

“I’ve had relationships with them for quite some time,” Nelson said. “Not nearly as close as Dr. Moore and I have had, but I’ve worked in situations and circumstances with them before so I know them well. … Mr. Howard at Woodland and Miss Barnhill at Adairsville do a great job in running their programs and doing what they need for their schools. We’ve worked well together before, so I don’t foresee any reason why we won’t work well together.”

It would seem to be a tough balance between developing umbrella policies for all the county schools to follow and allowing those at each school to have autonomy over their specific programs.

Nelson said the key to finding that balance is making sure everybody has a seat at the table when it comes to the decision-making process.

“I do feel like you can have the three high schools and the middle schools hopefully work a lot closer together and be more on the same page when it comes to some areas,” Nelson said. “At the same time, the schools operate their athletic departments themselves, so I’m just hoping to be a liaison between all the schools to try to help us all work in the same manner and protect one another and protect our students, most importantly.”