Getting to know the candidate: Superintendent finalist, Aune, has 18 years in education
This is the first story in a series of features on the three finalists for Troup County School System superintendent. The features are being published in alphabetical order by last name.
Margaret “Peggy” Aune is one of three finalists for the Troup County School System’s superintendent position. Aune (pronounced ‘awn-ee’), who goes by Peggy, is the current associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction at Collier County Public Schools in Naples, Florida, a position she has held since July 2017.
Aune has 18 years of experience working in education, all with Collier County Public Schools. During her role at Collier County Public Schools, Aune has been an exceptional education teacher, reading teacher, assistant principal, staff coordinator, principal, executive director of secondary programs and the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
In her current role, Aune oversees more than 50 schools in all aspects of education.
“It’s working with all of our schools in all areas of teaching and learning. Due to the size and scope of the county, I’ve really had the chance to be involved in many different projects across operations teaching and learning,” Aune said about her experience. “I’ve been fortunate to have quite a few different experiences.”
Aune graduated with a bachelor’s degree in special education from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2000. She earned her master’s in education from Florida Gulf Coast in 2004. In 2013, she earned a doctorate in education from the University of Florida.
Aune said her family is interested in a long-term commitment and saw the opening in Troup County as a good fit. Aune’s husband, Brandon, is also an educator. The couple has two daughters, one in elementary school and one in high school.
“Looking at Troup County and learning about the great sense of pride in the community and the focus on students and all students meeting high expectations, that’s appealing to me,” she said. “I really want to contribute to that and be a part of the team.”
A move from Naples would mean leaving the area she’s called home for most of her life. Aune was born in Syracuse, New York but moved to Naples at a young age and has lived in the area since then. A move to Georgia would mean getting closer to family in Alpharetta and in northern Florida.
“I’ve thought very carefully about what would be a great next step, both personally and professionally. It just seems like everything is aligning,” she said. “Being able to be near family, be in a strong community with a strong sense of pride — I’ve grown accustomed to that currently, so it would be exciting to be able to continue that and be part of the community there.”
Aune said she will visit Troup County early next week for her interview. Although she has not been to LaGrange before, she said she’s excited to see it.
She said she learned a great deal about the Troup County School System through stakeholder interviews, which were organized by search firm McPherson and Jacobson. The stakeholder interviews allowed teachers, parents, school administrators, business leaders and other groups to talk directly to the firm leading the search, and all of that information was given to the candidates.
“I really enjoyed reading that and the thought that went into the comments and the insights. That’s where I got that sense of great pride in the community,” Aune said. “I do see and have learned that there is a focus on early learning and college and career readiness. When I saw that, that’s very much in line with a lot of the work I’ve been doing here. Also, I want to add in too. It’s not just college and career readiness. It’s college, career and life readiness. How do we help every student at every step of the way?”
Aune, and the other two candidates, were specifically asked by The LaGrange Daily News how they would impact the Troup County School System’s literacy scores, which are below state average at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Aune said it was obvious from the stakeholder information that there are a lot of groups working to improve the literacy problem in Troup County.
“There are lots of great community organizations. I was excited to see that as well. There is a lot of great momentum in that area, but really aligning that effort. What are we doing in the space of early learning, even before students begin school? How we can get more opportunities for students and families to engage in early learning opportunities?” Aune said. “Then, when students are coming to school even more ready, how do we build upon what we are doing in the classroom?”
There were 52 candidates for the position, including internal candidates, according to Interim Superintendent Roy Nichols.
None of the three finalists have ever worked in a Georgia school district, a point discussed by many community members on social media. Each candidate was asked about that criticism.
Aune said if she’s hired, she looks forward to meeting everyone in LaGrange and Troup County and getting to know the area.
“That will take time, but it’s something I look forward to — getting to know students and parents, teachers, principals, but also community members,” Aune said. “What are our priorities? What are our strengths? What do we want to focus on? I also think there is some great commonalities in education. Looking at students first is universal in decision-making. Looking at data, looking at the best practices, what can we replicate across the district? A lot of those practices I think can be applied to any school system.”
Aune said her long-term commitment to Naples also serves as a reminder that she’s willing to stay in a place for a long time.
If Aune got the position in Troup County, she would be moving to a smaller school district. Collier County Public Schools in Naples serves 48,000 students in 29 elementary schools, 10 middle schools, eight high schools and a pre-K-twelfth grade school. It also has 13 alternative school programs, according to the school district’s website. Naples has a population of around 21,948, but Collier County has more than 372,000 people.
According to the Troup County School System, TCSS has just over 12,000 students.
“I think there’s a real urgency around student achievement, and I’ve enjoyed getting to see results as part of a team, really helping students to achieve,” Aune said of her time in Naples. “We have had a significant increase in graduation rates, as well as overall student achievement. I have been proud to see some of those results in place and would love to be part of the work in Troup County.”
The Troup County School System has been looking for a new superintendent since August, when Cole Pugh resigned from the position.
Larry DiChiara and Brian Shumate are the other two finalists for the position. The LDN will publish profile pieces on those two candidates on Friday and Saturday. The finalists were announced Feb. 4. Under Georgia law, the school board must wait at least 14 days before announcing the new superintendent.