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New faces, places at school
A year of change in Bryan County Schools
Tanner and her boys Carson and Colby will all be together next year at RHE
Merry Tanner and her sons, Carson and Colby, will be together next year at RHE. - photo by Photo provided.

When students walk through the doors of some Bryan County schools on Monday, they will be greeted by several new faces and — in the case of McAllister Elementary — a brand-new school.

Four schools will see new principals, but they aren’t new to Bryan County. Crystal Morales, formerly at Dr. George Washington Carver Elementary School, is now the principal of Bryan County High School. Nancy Highsmith, a former assistant principal at Richmond Hill High School, takes over as principal of Richmond Hill Primary School.

Karen Smith a former assistant principal at Richmond Hill Elementary School, is the new principal of Carver Elementary.

Bivins Miller, a former assistant principal at Richmond Hill High, will join Principal Mary Ann Tiedemann at the new McAllister Elementary as assistant principal. Tiedemann has served as principal of Richmond Hill Primary.

Merry Tanner faces perhaps one of the most drastic changes. The longtime Spanish teacher at RHHS is now the assistant principal at RHES.

The goal was to take advantage of existing talent within the school system by people already familiar with the district.

“It is hard to imagine bringing someone in to learn Bryan County policy and procedures; it would maybe be too overwhelming,” Tanner said. “We have excellent administrators to draw from, so why not?”

Tanner, born and raised in McRae, has spent the past 19 years teaching Spanish — nine at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, and the last 10 at RHHS. Tanner, who has a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Mercer University and a master’s in educational leadership from Georgia College, said she is excited about this year and her new role.

“Both of my parents were teachers their entire careers with 30 years or more experience. It was in the blood — genetic almost,” she said. “My father told me not to become a teacher, that it was too stressful and too many technicalities. When I went off to college, I tried to pursue other areas, but they just didn’t feel right. When I picked education, it felt right. It felt like coming home.”
Tanner expects to miss Richmond Hill High.

“I loved to watch the kids grow from their freshman to the senior year,” she said. “I worked with prom committee, and this was always fun. I was a class sponsor, and we had to do a lot with homecoming and hall decorations. These were always fun activities that allowed us to get to know the kids on a different level outside of regular class-time activities.”

After being in the classroom for so long, Tanner knew she had to make a choice when she saw the administrator positions come available. With her master’s degree, she always has had the credentials.

“After talking to my husband, Greg, it just felt like the right time to make a change and start afresh,” she said.

Not only does Tanner face the transition from the classroom to administration, but also from high school to elementary.

“I am trying to prepare myself mentally for all the changes, even looking at the yearbook to begin familiarizing myself with faces that have already been there,” she said. “I am excited about working with younger children. I do this already at church, so I am very excited about this part.”

Bryan County Schools’ good reputation is not lost on Tanner, but she said parents play a major role.

“I think it has a lot to do with parental involvement here and the nature of the community,” she said. “There is a tradition of excellence here, and we’ve just been fortunate to be able to build on it from year to year.”

Tanner knows from experience, as she also is a parent in the school system. She has three sons: Carson and Colby, both rising third-graders, and Caleb, a rising eighth-grader.

Parents can “continue to see excellence in their child’s education, a well-organized school, and they can continue to see teachers and administrators who communicate with them about events and important dates they need to be aware of,” she said. “I feel like they can expect more of what they’ve seen in the past — a well-oiled machine.”

New McAllister Elementary

The Bryan County family of schools welcomes its newest addition — McAllister Elementary. McAllister is the first new school to the district since Carver Elementary in 2001.

McAllister will serve prekindergarten through grade five, with an anticipated enrollment of 850 students.

The building has nearly 150,000 square feet and is situated on 27+ acres.  

Mary Ann Tiedemann, principal, and Cleave “Bivins” Miller, assistant principal, welcome you to McAllister.

“We are all deeply committed to making this a banner year for everyone, especially our students. We look forward to a wonderful year, full of engaging, meaningful, and rigorous work in our classrooms, along with many opportunities for fun and special times together.
“We look forward to meeting you and your child this coming school year.”  

Open house was this week, but since it is usually so busy, administrators hope to schedule a “Back to School” night within the first few weeks of school.

The Back to School night will be an opportunity for you to visit and get to spend more time becoming familiar with the school.

McAllister’s goal for students is continuous growth and quality learning in a supportive environment.

The heart of McAllister Elementary School is a team of highly qualified professional educators and support personnel who are all dedicated to making this an exciting and productive school year for your child.

— Adapted from Bryan County Schools Back-to-School paper

Refurbished BC Elementary

When students return to class at Bryan County Elementary School they will have a new building — it’s out with the old and in with the new.  

The new Bryan County Elementary School has nearly 120,000 square feet of active learning environments situated on 36 acres.   

“We’re so excited to be in the new building,” Principal Julie Gannam said. “We’ve been planning this for about a year.”
Both students and teachers have been looking forward to this day.

“We have all new technology, all new furniture. This building is going to be great,” Gannam said.

— Adapted from Bryan County Schools Back-to-School paper

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