John Barge, director of Secondary Curriculum for Bartow County Schools, will begin leading the Georgia Department of Education in January when he begins his term as state school superintendent, an office he won in the general election earlier this month. Following Barge to GDOE headquarters in Atlanta will be Avis King, a longtime educator who has worked with Barge the past five years. Barge appointed King, the district's director of School Improvement, to serve as the state DOE's deputy superintendent for School Improvement.
Barge said the appointment puts in his five-person senior cabinet someone who shares one of his educational philosophies.
"We believe that you can't treat every child the same, that every child learns differently at different rates, and a one-size-fits-all kind of program is not going to be the most effective approach for school improvement," Barge said. "To really have school improvement, you're going to have to drill down to individual students and find out what makes it click for them.
"Those five senior cabinet people are people that I want to know, people I want to trust, people that I know the quality of their work, their work ethic," he added. "Having worked with Avis King for the last five years here in Bartow, I know she is a person of great character and integrity and does quality work, and has done a really good job with school improvement here in Bartow County. I just really couldn't think of another person that I would like to be there working with me that I already have a relationship with and know how to work with, and that I can also trust the quality of their work."
King's last day with the district will be Nov. 30. After that, she will meet with other members of Barge's staff, attend a retreat and learn the duties and responsibilities of her job before starting it on Jan. 10.
"I am extremely honored to have been selected by Dr. Barge," King said. "I've worked with him for the past five years; I've found him to be wonderful to work with, extremely ethical and moral, and extremely capable in everything he's done. I feel that we work well together, and he's putting together a great team that I'm thrilled to be a part of."
"I think [he and I] both have a heart for service, and we both do care about the students in Georgia and Bartow County where we have served. And I think that we want to see things really good for our kids, because, of course, they're our future," she added.
While King said the state job will be similar to the work she has done for Bartow County, she expects it will be on "a tremendously larger scale."
"I expect there to be a large learning curve," she said, "but I have always liked a challenge, and I'm looking forward to [this] great opportunity. But of course, I will miss the wonderful team I have been part of in Bartow County, because I have been truly blessed to have worked with a wonderful team here."
King's appointment caps her long career in education in north Georgia, which includes about two decades in Bartow. She graduated from Berry College with a speech and drama degree, later returning to school to get a degree in special education, which she used to teach [children with] behavior disorders, first in Gordon County Schools then Cartersville City Schools. She then moved onto teaching remedial math and reading at Cartersville Middle School.
"During that time, I found I was enjoying talking to my students about the issues that they were facing, so I went back and got my counseling degree," King said, adding that it led to her start in Bartow County Schools as a counselor at Mission Road Elementary about 20 years ago.
After obtaining an administrative degree and counseling work at Adairsville Elementary, she became the school's assistant principal, then went back to Mission Road to serve as its assistant principal. She then moved into the principal's seat at White Elementary before ultimately reaching the district's central office, where she has been the last five years.
"I have truly enjoyed my time here in the county -- it has been just a wonderful place to work, really committed educators, wonderful people who really care about our students," she said. "I've had a wonderful career here ... so leaving is very difficult for me."
King's departure, along with Barge's move out of the system before taking office Jan. 10, is giving what Superintendent John Harper said is a tough task.
"I'm losing two wonderful people, and they're going to be very difficult to replace," he said.
"I'm personally very excited for Miss King, not very excited about her leaving the Bartow County School System -- she's such a tremendous asset for us, she has a huge fingerprint on the [district]," Harper added. "I'm going to miss her, and the students in Bartow County are going to miss her.
"She will be very successful in helping improve school systems in the state of Georgia, just as she was here."