Associate Superintendent John Dunn

Thu, 03/15/2007 - 4:28pm
By: The Citizen

Coweta County Associate Superintendent John Dunn is retiring from his position at the end of the year. Dunn has held the position since being appointed by Superintendent Blake Bass in 2004.

Dunn is married to Newnan High School A.P. calculus teacher Vivian Dunn, who was recently chosen as one of two Newnan High STAR teachers this year.

“I met Vivian at West Georgia College. Her father was a biology professor there,” and John Dunn was a biology student, he said. Mrs. Dunn is retiring at the end of the school year as well.

The Dunns chose Coweta schools because they knew the school system well and it had a good reputation. Vivian chose Coweta schools over a job offer at Oak Mountain Academy.

“We had one car and a motorcycle to get us around, and we worked it out so that I could student teach in Coweta once she began teaching here.” A year later he graduated from college and a biology teaching position opened up.

Dunn began his teaching career in Coweta County Schools in 1976 at Central High School, where he served as a science teacher for 10 years. His first principal was Richard Brooks.

“I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a good school system with a very good outlook and a good, professional group of people here,” he said. “I enjoyed going to work every day.”

As a biology teacher, he most enjoyed the lab work. “Dissecting, microscopes – the kids always enjoyed that.” His favorite subject was astronomy. The school system – and schools – were smaller then (about 7,000 students, as opposed to nearly 22,000 today). At Central High, Dunn recalls that teachers envied teachers in mobile trailers, because they were the only air-conditioned classes on campus.

Dunn moved to Newnan High School as a teacher in 1986, working with principal Alan Wood. He became an assistant principal one year later at O.P. Evans with principal Herman Fletcher, and then principal of Atkinson Elementary School. Dunn moved to the Central Office in 1994 to coordinate the county’s middle schools, and then became principal of White Oak Elementary School in 1995. In 1999 he became the director of secondary curriculum, a position he held until Blake Bass became superintendent in 2004 and asked him to work with him as his associate superintendent.

The two had immediate challenges in the school system, including a very tight school system budget. Dunn not only took on the associate superintendent’s duties, but the traditional duties of the system’s assistant superintendent over curriculum and other jobs.

The school system enjoys a better financial outlook today. Its challenges are also different than the ones the school system faced when Dunn began teaching in 1976.

“But we have some of the same strengths,” said Dunn. “I still think we have an excellent group of people, from teachers to maintenance to our administrators. We’re getting larger, but we have an excellent reputation as a school system, so we attract good people.”

“Our school system puts students first, and we have good community support and good parent support,” which translates into community backing of the sales tax to meet the demands of growth, and high academic achievement in schools, said Dunn.

Dunn forsees growth as a continuing challenge for the system.

“I think the biggest struggle with the growth is not just providing an excellent educational environment for students and good facilities, but maintaining a good relationship with the community.”

“One of our strengths has been in keeping that small school system feel and being accessible to parents and citizens even while we’ve expanded,” he said. But Dunn said the school system is still doing that. He remembered that refugees from Hurricane Katrina were amazed that he and Superintendent Bass went personally to the Red Cross shelter to enroll students personally, and he sees principals across the county maintain the same accessibility to parents and students.

Coweta schools will need to stress that accessibility as they grow, “to make sure that we’re doing the best we can for every student,” he said. Improvements to curriculum training and data collection and use are helping teachers to make sure that students can be developed to their full potential.

Drawing on his grounding in science, Dunn also believes that the school system will need to stress math, science and technology to help students succeed. “Generally, we seem to have a very good handle on reading and English. Our students are literate; we need to make sure they are all numerate, as well.”

“It’s a broad front of challenges, but the system is up to it,” said Dunn.

Looking back over his career, Dunn said he has a great deal to be happy with. Mostly, though, “I think it’s great to be around long enough to see folks you used to teach being successful in life, in the community, in professions,” he said. “It’s good to know they all grew up.”

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