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New principals make clean transitions to Buckhead elementary schools
by Caroline Young
October 10, 2012 11:39 AM | 3125 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Meredith Kaltman
Meredith Kaltman
Tommy Usher is no stranger to elementary school life in Buckhead. After working at Sarah Smith Elementary School for five years as program administrator, Usher said his transition to interim principal at Garden Hills Elementary has been quite smooth.

“There isn’t that much difference between Sarah Smith and Garden Hills in terms of teaching staff,” the Midtown resident said. “Both sets of staff members are great, creative, hardworking people.”

Usher is replacing Amy Alderman, who is now a principal mentor in Atlanta Public Schools.

Since both schools are IB schools, Garden Hills has much of the same type of planning instruction as Sarah Smith, Usher said, but the biggest change is the higher population, 60 to 61 percent, of Hispanic families at Garden Hills.

“The staff at Garden Hills is very protective of kids and families,” Usher said. “We’re looking at doing things to meet the needs of the children and the community, specifically the Hispanic Latino American communities.”

This year, he said he is working with the local school council and the Parent Teacher Association to create more engaging opportunities for the Hispanic parent population.

“We’re calling them Lemonade parties, where I go out into the communities, allowing families who are not able to get to school because of transportation issues, to see me and talk to me,” Usher said. “We will go to them.”

As Usher moved out, Meredith Kaltman moved in to Sarah Smith as interim principal, replacing Sidney Baker who is now a district principal mentor.

Kaltman came directly from Sutton Middle School when she got a call from Sarah Smith, after being at Sutton for only three days as assistant principal.

“It has been wonderful. The school is truly a shining jewel in education,” she said. “It has shown me so many different facets in terms of quality instruction, teamwork amongst teachers and parent involvement.”

She served as interim principal at Walter White Elementary last year, which made her comfortable with the elementary school curriculum. She was at Sutton in the four years before Walter White, as assistant principal.

“Middle schoolers are a unique breed. I just love that age,” she said. “But elementary school kids love adults and they’re just happy. … Elementary school touches a special place in your heart. Sarah Smith has done that for me.”

Before teaching, Kaltman worked for six years as an instructional technology specialist for Atlanta Public Schools, and said she believes children should have access to the latest technology.

“I’m trying to make sure it’s in the hands of kids. That’s my hope,” she said. “Certainly it will be part of their futures, so it is essential to get them used to that. There are so many applications out there to enhance and enrich instruction in the classroom.”

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