HUNT COLUMN: Welcoming Dr. Hazel

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2024

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I’m writing on Monday morning, July 1, and this afternoon Dr. Rachel Hazel will take the oath of office as the new Superintendent of Troup County Schools. Change can be both exciting and scary, but I think our board has made an excellent decision in hiring Dr. Hazel.

She brings an impressive resume’ of experience with her. She has worked for Volusia County, Florida, public schools for more than twenty years, most recently as deputy superintendent. In a system in turmoil, dealing with six superintendents in five years, Dr. Hazel was named interim superintendent during the most recent leadership search. One of her references said that she brought a calming and stabilizing presence to the role, and the eventual appointee to district leader promoted her to deputy super.

As deputy, she has been overseeing strategic planning, finance, student services, operations, and human resources. That is a huge umbrella of supervision in a system with more than 60,000 students, 7500 employees, and a billion-dollar budget. She has also served as Director of Curriculum and Chief Academic Officer, so she has broad experience on both the academic and operational sides of the leadership spectrum.

Originally, Dr. Hazel was an exceptional education teacher. Then she moved into the worlds of school assistant principal and principal. Under her leadership, the schools she led saw impressive gains in their state “grades” in her first year.  As a candidate for a doctoral degree, she wrote a dissertation on principal efficacy and teacher retention.

In Volusia County she was a board member for the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA. She served as a liaison and worked closely with the NAACP and the Volusia County African American Leadership Council. She was a member of Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce. She enjoys making presentations to civic groups because of the importance of sharing the system’s story with the public. She has presented internationally on many educational topics.

Before coming for her interview, Dr. Hazel did her homework on Troup County Schools and our strategic plan, and also on Georgia curriculum standards. She loves our motto of “A Place for Every Kid” and believes that “one size fits all” does not work when it comes to individual schools.

Something that I believe is very important is that Dr. Hazel really wanted to come to Troup County. She attended Coweta and Pike County public schools growing up, and her parents, both educators for decades in Coweta, still live in west Georgia. She is excited about returning to her roots. And her husband is excited about fishing at West Point Lake!

Initially, Dr. Hazel will need time to acclimate to her new role by getting to know the people and the schools under her supervision, as well as our institutional history and our community. It is important that we give her the space to do that. Whenever a new leader takes charge, there are untold numbers of individuals who want to bend their ear. And good leaders want to listen. But let’s resist the urge to bombard her at the jump. Some folks who seek time with the new guy or gal have the purest of motives in that they have good ideas that they’re passionate about and really do have the best interests of the organization at heart. The reality, though, is that many have only personal interests or grievances in mind. In Dr. Hazel, we are fortunate to have a true leader who is an expert in the field of public education. Not many people around here can claim that. Let’s show her our support while giving her latitude to do the job she was hired to do.