Piedmont Alumnae Chosen to Lead Three White County Schools
Three Piedmont alumnae have been selected to lead schools in the White County School System beginning with the next school year.
According to a story on the front page of the White County News, Juliana Dean and Noel Cochran will serve as principals for Mt. Yonah Elementary and Tesnatee Gap Elementary, respectively. Marybeth Thomas is the new director for Warrior Academy, which helps nontraditional students in the school system achieve their goals.
Here is an excerpt of the story written from the April 6, 2023, issue of the White County News written by Samantha Sinclair:
The White County Board of Education hired new principals for Mt. Yonah Elementary and Tesnatee Gap Elementary, and also hired new directors for Warrior Academy and the system’s finance department Thursday night.
All hires are effective next school year.
As White County is a charter school system, each school’s governing council selected their new principal, and the board of education approved the selections. Committees selected the new directors who were then approved by the board.
All will have 230-day contracts and will be paid according to the state salary scale.
“We’re excited about our new folks,” Superintendent Laurie Burkett said after the meeting.
Juliana Dean will be the new principal at Mt. Yonah Elementary. She is the assistant principal at Wauka Mountain Multiple Intelligences Academy in Hall County. She is replacing Jill Baughman who is moving to the central office to serve as the director of federal and state programs.
Dean was selected out of 12 applicants for the position.
“I’m so excited to have Juliana on board,” Burkett said. “She is a seasoned elementary administrator who began her career as a student teacher at Mt. Yonah. She will be a huge asset to our students and staff at MYES.”
Dean did her student teaching at Mt. Yonah 18 years ago while finishing her bachelor’s degree at Piedmont College.
“It feels poetic to return to such a fantastic school,” Dean said. “Throughout my 17 years in the Hall County School District, I have always admired the close-knit community and the reputation of success the White County School District has to offer. It was always a goal to give back to the community I call home — I’m honored and humbled to have such an opportunity.”
She said her leadership style lends itself to developing strong relationships, which she said are the core of a strong community, school culture and solid instruction. She said she is eager to continue the foundation already established at Mt. Yonah.
“The warm welcome I’ve received — in the county I call home — has been extraordinary,” Dean said. “I look forward to the months ahead, where I can develop relationships with the staff of Mt. Yonah Elementary before we begin an unforgettable 2023-2024 school year.”
Dean has lived in White County for 19 years — 18 of those years married to lifelong resident Roger Dean. They have two children.
Noel Cochran will be the new principal at Tesnatee Gap Elementary. She is the principal at White Sulphur Elementary in Hall County. She is replacing Octavius Mulligan (another Piedmont alum), who is retiring.
Cochran was selected out of 13 candidates.
“I’m thrilled to have Noel joining our TGAP family,” Burkett said. “Noel has a heart and passion for serving people and she will be a huge asset to our staff and students at Tesnatee Gap.”
Cochran said Tesnatee Gap is the school she wants her sons — a four-year-old and two-year-old — to attend. She loved hearing the governing council of the school talk about community as they interviewed her, and that members of the community were involved in the hiring process.
Then, when she got to visit the school on Friday, everyone was welcoming, from students to staff. Staff members were already trying to find ways they were connected with her.
“It just shows how eager they are to build community,” she said.
She’s seen how good the school’s scores are and said she wants to help the school move to the next level.
“I’m just eager to get there and start learning,” Cochran said.
She said instruction is her passion.
“We are already rocking and rolling. How can we ‘be more?’” she said, referring to Burkett’s motto. “I want TGap to be the best school for our families.”
She has four years of experience in administration, and was a teacher at White Sulphur for six years prior. In 2017, she was named the school’s teacher of the year.
She said she’s worked at very diverse schools, and has the experience to work with all students, no matter their background or ability.
Cochran lives in the Clermont area with her husband, Brad, and their children.
Marybeth Thomas will be the new Warrior Academy director. She is the principal at Cornelia Elementary School in Habersham County, but has also served as a middle school and high school administrator in Habersham. She is replacing Shelly McDonald who is retiring.
Thomas was selected out of 17 applicants.
“I’m very excited to have Marybeth join our team as the director of Warrior Academy,” Burkett said. “She comes to us with a wealth of experience at the middle and high school levels. She will be an asset to our school system.”
For 27 out of the 28 years she’s been a educator, Thomas has been working with middle and high school students, the two ages groups of Warrior Academy.
“That age range of teenagers is where my heart belongs,” Thomas said.
Thomas was selected as the state Principal of the Year by Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals while serving as the principal at Wilbanks Middle School. She believes that experience, as well as her experience creating a middle school and her ability to build relationships will benefit the Warrior Academy.
“The total package is important,” Thomas said.
She was impressed not just by the Warrior Academy, but by the full positive atmosphere in the school system.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I’m looking forward to meeting the students.”
Thomas went to Piedmont College after growing up in Pennsylvania.
“Once I got to Georgia, I really loved it,” she said.
She lives in Clarkesville and has three children.
Thomas thanked the board of education, school leadership and Burkett for the opportunity.