Executive assistant to TCSS Superintendent leaves after 10 years

Published 8:45 am Saturday, June 17, 2023

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For 10 years, Arlene Fowler has been the wind beneath the wings of the Troup County School System.

On Friday, Fowler traded her title as the executive assistant of the superintendent to become the executive assistant for Chris Wells, the executive director of the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency.

Fowler said she had mixed feelings about leaving the Troup County School System.

“I love what I do, I’m comfortable in it, and I love the people. I love working for Dr. Shumate, and I believe we’re headed in the right direction. I see such great things going on in the county and for our kids and employees. It’s hard to leave, but I feel comfortable with Kristi and feel like she’s very capable,” Fowler said.

“I am in a time in my life where I was presented with this opportunity to work with the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency at the state level as the executive director in Atlanta. I have a younger brother that has multiple disabilities, so it’s near and dear to my heart. It’s sad, but I felt like it was a good time to make a change.”

Kristi East has been training and will take over as Fowler’s replacement.

“Kristi is incredibly knowledgeable. She’s a smart lady and has been working for the school system for quite a while,” Fowler said. “She was in the role of executive assistant to our new assistant superintendent of operations for about two weeks when she applied for this position. The committee wholeheartedly felt that she will be the right fit.”

Superintendent Dr. Brian Shumate said Fowler has been instrumental in the operations of TCSS.

“The amount of background knowledge she had of the district, operations, superintendent’s office, school board relations, all have been hugely beneficial to me as the superintendent coming in here,” Shumate said. “She’s a bit of a historian and knows a lot about the community and the history of the school district. She will certainly be missed, but we definitely support Arlene in her decision.”

Brandon Brooks, chairman of the Troup County School Board, said Fowler has been essential in helping the board stay organized and informed.

“I’ve been on the school board for six years and through that entire time, Arlene has been a critical element of not only keeping the school board informed but being able to assist individual school board members in various needs across the system. Her knowledge of the system as a whole is so helpful and directing our concerns to that particular department or individual that concern needs to be addressed with,” Brooks said.

“She is always super helpful, kind, and professional. When you ask her to do something, she just has this uncanny ability to make time to do it right, so you don’t have to worry about it tomorrow or the next day. Arlene is on task at all times. We are greatly going to miss her, but we absolutely support her and her next endeavor and wish her all the luck.”

Fowler initially began her career in TCSS in 1994 working for LaGrange High School.

“I was working for one of the local churches in town, and I needed to be at home with my children. So, I went to LaGrange High thinking that I was meeting with the assistant principal to talk with them about getting someone to come and answer the phones. Twenty minutes into the interview, she said, ‘Why do you think you’re here?’ and I told her, ‘Why do you think I’m here?’ and I ended up with a position in the computer lab as a teacher assistant,” Fowler said.

In a twist of fate, the job worked in her favor, and she fell in love with it. Over time, Fowler ended up in the principal’s office and went on to work for TCSS’s then-CFO Don Miller in 2004. Fowler would continue working at TCSS from then on.    

Fowler said she will miss the people the most.

“I will miss working with the superintendent and the board who have been amazing to work with,” Fowler said. “I get a lot of angry phone calls from parents because they just want to be heard — they don’t call superintendent’s office when they’re happy, but they just want to be heard and want to know that what they feel or think matters. It does because they’re their child’s advocate, and they need to be so I think I will miss the people most of all.”

In her time in the superintendent’s office, Fowler said there are a few lessons she will take with her.

“Treat everyone with respect, listen to what they have to say and understand that everybody just wants the best for their child. There would be no need for my job if it wasn’t for the children,” Fowler said. “I’ve learned a lot about customer service, a lot about listening to people and just treating them the way I would want to be treated.”