By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Georgia native Dr. Doreen Griffeth might be applying for the top job in the Cullman City Schools system, but the long-time teacher and administrator still feels right at home in the classroom.
Before becoming a principal and assistant superintendent in Cobb County Schools in Marietta, Ga., Griffeth worked as a music and special education teacher — and told the school board during a public interview earlier this week that her classroom experience continues to inform.
“I’ve had a great career in education and this would be the next step for me,” she said. “I left the classroom kicking and screaming, because I love the classroom. But, I found out as an administrator you really can make a difference in the whole building. It’s a great opportunity.”
Griffeth said communication would be a major priority if hired, and noted she would implement and continue frequent updates with the community, staff and school board.
“We’ve used blogs, call outs to our parents, and we’ve done videos and webinars. There are so many ways we can communicate,” she said. “As superintendent, I think we need to sing and sell our system. We need to sell the good things that are going on in Cullman City Schools ... It’s nice to know I’m not going to have to beg [local officials] to be a part of what you have going on here. I think it’d be important to communicate regularly. Being able to advocate for our system is the way to keep it as great as it is.”
When asked what she would do if she were ever at odds with the board over a potential policy, Griffeth said she would fight for her position but cede and respect the board’s decision.
“If this were to happen, please know I’d bring the best recommendation I could give,” she said. “But if you still disagreed, then I would get up, brush myself off and move on. It’s your school system, and we’re a team of six. It’s not my ego getting in the way.”
On the topic of balancing in-district and out-of-district students, Griffeth said she’d consider expanding the physical size of the system to meet demand. The city system currently has a lengthy waiting list for out-of-district students seeking enrollment, and out-of-district already makes up one-third of the student body.
“When you have that type of waiting list, it’s very flattering — but again, you want to be able to control that, so you can provide the best education for the students already in your school system,” she said. “If we are that popular, then we need to have a futuristic plan perhaps for building, if that’s something deemed necessary. I’d determine what the space availabilities are, without compromising the education provided to the city students.”
Citing her experience in Georgia, Griffeth said she is already familiar with forward-thinking technological initiatives like the city system’s 1:1 laptop project, and said she would work to support the technology department if hired.
“We’ve done bring your own devices, and ‘flip classrooms,’ where students watch a video of the lesson at home, then work with the teacher on homework in the classroom. We’ve had a lot of success with that,” she said. “I’d keep up with research, and not just use technology to say we’re using the latest technology, but use it in the most effective way possible.”
After working at a larger system for so many years, Griffeth said her organizational experience could be a benefit for Cullman City Schools when setting and accomplishing goals.
“We have a district plan, then the schools can align with it. You’d be able to use that information to build the best possible strategic plan to take care of our students,” she said. “I’ve been able to do that with my principals, and we came up with non-negotiables about how to do the best for our students. Looked at what every classroom deserves, then set things principals have to accomplish, and we let them go and empower them to accomplish it.”