Smiths Station High School principal Jason Yohn is leaving to become operations director of Pelham City Schools.
Yohn has led the high school for six years.
"It was very difficult to stand in front of these people and make that announcement this morning," Yohn said Tuesday. "I couldn't make it through the whole thing without getting emotional. We have done a lot of great work here. We have transformed the school into something the whole community can be proud of."
The Pelham Board of Education voted Monday to hire Yohn. He expects to start his new job June 2.
Lee County School District superintendent James McCoy emphasized he has been in the system for only a year but he already knows Yohn has earned respect.
"My understanding is that, academically, he has brought the school up," McCoy said, "and I think he has done a great job on the curriculum and bringing in great teachers."
Smiths Station's reputation will attract the field of candidates necessary to hire a principal who will continue the high school's momentum, McCoy said.
"I do believe there will be a lot of interest generated in that school because of the great kids and great teachers," he said.
That's also why Yohn finds it tough to leave a school system where he has worked all but three years since 1997. His wife, Kathy, is a special-education teacher in Lee County and their two sons call it home.
"I wish the city of Smiths Station and this school the best in the future," he said. "It's been a great place to raise a family and go to school."
Yohn, 43, sees Pelham as a great place to further his 21-year education career. He will help create a new school system, which officially separates from Shelby County Schools on July 1.
"Being on the ground floor of a brand-new school system is very attractive," he said. "I feel real confident in running a school. Now, I will be able to learn how to run a school system."
Last month, the Pelham board hired Oneonta City Schools superintendent Scott Coefield to be its leader.
Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow Mark on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.