Muscogee County principal leaving for another Chattahoochee Valley school

 Alton White

A Muscogee County principal will be leaving to lead another Chattahoochee Valley high school.

During its meeting Thursday, the Troup County Board of Education approved the hiring of Jordan Vocational High School principal Alton White as the new principal of LaGrange High School.

White will remain at Jordan until his successor is hired, the LaGrange Daily News reported. The Troup school board approved in November the promotion of LaGrange High principal Penny Johnson to replace the retired director of secondary curriculum. She will continue as principal until White takes over, according to the newspaper's story.

In an interview Monday afternoon, White, who has been principal at Jordan since 2011, told the Ledger-Enquirer why he applied for the opening in LaGrange.

"First of all, there's nothing wrong at Jordan or any reason for me wanting to leave," he said. "I've had a great experience here, and I think we've been able to do some good things here. It's just that I think LaGrange has a great tradition of excellence in pretty much all phases of the high school experience, from academics to athletics to the arts and the community. I felt it was something I couldn't pass up. The time (to leave) is never perfect when you're happy at a place."

That's why he requested the Muscogee County School District release him from his contract only after the new Jordan principal is hired, White said.

"I just don't want to walk out," he said. "I would never do that."

The key difference between the two jobs, White said, is that LaGrange has only one public high school and Muscogee County has nine.

"I like the small-town feel," he said. "We've lost some of that in Muscogee County over the years."

Asked to be more specific, White added, "We've gotten so spread out, we don't have neighborhood schools. With nine (high) schools, it's hard to get that feel."

LaGrange High's enrollment of around 1,450 is twice as large as Jordan's, he said.

"It's some new opportunities and new challenges," White said, "and it gives me the opportunity to keep growing in this profession."

White said he is most pleased with Jordan's improvement in academics and school pride. He credits "the collaboration that everybody has put into it, the teachers and administrators and parents and students, everyone working together."

Under his leadership, Jordan has:

  • Increased its graduation rate from 43.6 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2015.
  • Increased its College and Career Ready Performance Index from 68.6 in 2012 to 76.2 in 2014. The CCRPI scores based on the state’s 2015 test results are expected to be released in March.
  • Moved from Needs Improvement to off the Priority School List in four years after never making Adequate Yearly Progress.

White, 49, has been an educator for 22 years, all in Muscogee and Harris counties. His previous positions include assistant principal at Harris County High School from 2003-2011, assistant principal at Park Elementary from 2002-03 and math teacher at Hardaway High School from 1994-2002.

White also has experience in athletics. He was athletics director at Harris County High from 2003-07, and at Hardaway he was assistant varsity football coach from 1994-2000, assistant varsity baseball coach from 1994-2002 and cross country coach from 1994-95.

White earned a specialist's degree in educational leadership and administration from Troy University in 2008, a master's degree in educational leadership and administration from Columbus State University in 2001, a master's degree in secondary mathematics from CSU in 2000, a post-baccalaureate certificate in secondary mathematics from CSU in 1994 and a bachelor's degree in business management from CSU in 1990. He graduated from Hardaway High School in 1985.

Before becoming an educator, White worked for Safeguard Business Solutions from 1990-94.

Muscogee County School District superintendent David Lewis praised White for the positive impact he has made in five years at Jordan.

“He has worked diligently with dedicated teachers, support staff, parents and the School Improvement Grant to increase academic gains, improve the graduation rate and enhance career programs for our students,” Lewis said in an email to the L-E. “His dedication and commitment to education, our children and the community is appreciated. We wish Mr. White well in his new leadership endeavor.”

Troup County School System superintendent Cole Pugh wasn’t reached for comment Monday. In an email from TCSS public relations director Yolanda Stephen, chief human resources officer Sequita Freeman explained why White was selected.

“Mr. White’s experience and expertise in leadership, school improvement, curriculum, and instruction made him the best applicant to serve as principal for LaGrange High School,” Freeman said.

Asked what stood out about White as a candidate, Freeman said, “His professional demeanor and ability to maintain even temperament in adverse situations stood out. In addition, his reputation to make positive gains with student growth and achievement was also impressive.”

White was the top choice out of seven interviewed candidates and an estimated 45 applicants, Stephen said.

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272. Follow him on Twitter@MarkRiceLE.