Rutherford County Schools announces four new principals

Jun 08, 2022 at 02:22 pm by WGNS

(Top L to R) Dr. Kelly Newberry, Justin Smith (Bottom L to R) Brad Decker, Dr. Alexandria Jackson

Four new principals are stepping into leadership roles with RCS for the 22-23 school year. All come with incredible experience in education and leadership.

Justin Smith, Blackman High School principal: Smith has worked in education since 2001, most recently as an assistant principal at Blackman High School. He’s served previously as an instructional coach and teacher.


Director Sullivan noted Smith’s experience: “Mr. Smith has been an integral part of the success at BHS.  He has served as a teacher, instructional coach, and assistant principal during the past 21 years.  His servant leadership has already had positive impacts on the entire Blackman community, and we look forward to watching the school continue to achieve new heights under his leadership.”

That “servant attitude” will continue to benefit the students of Blackman High. Smith, being familiar with Blackman High’s culture, is in a good position to implement changes but preserve the core foundation that makes BHS successful.

“Blackman High School has a strong school culture that is built around purpose, history, connection and growth,” Smith said. “It is important to me that these foundational pillars remain and are strengthened. That being said, we live in an ever-changing world. School safety and social-emotional needs are on the forefront of our minds.”

Dr. Kelly Newberry, Rockvale Middle School principal: Dr. Newberry has most recently served as assistant principal at Rockvale Middle School and has worked in education since 1991. Years of teaching experience illustrate how Newberry is still connected with teachers in the classroom — critical experience for an effective principal.

Beyond educational experience, Newberry has proven she knows how to lead a team.

“Dr. Newberry is a strong leader with management experience outside of the educational setting,” Director Sullivan said. “She has served under Mr. Fred Barlow as an assistant principal at Rockvale Middle School, and she has been provided experiences in all areas of operating one of our largest and highest performing middle schools.”

Developing relationships is important as an effective leader. Getting to know a school and its history is just as important for successful leadership and building culture.

“I've served as both a teacher and assistant principal at this school and there is no place I would rather continue my career as principal,” Dr. Newberry said. “Rockvale has consistently been a high achieving school and my goal is to continue this level of excellence.”

With a strong track record of leadership at RMS, and a doctorate in administration and supervision, Newberry is ready to step into the principal role.

“As a vested member of the RMS community, Dr. Newberry will continue to ensure that Rockvale Middle provides only the best of opportunities for the school, students and community,” Director Sullivan said.

Brad Decker will serve as Oakland Middle principal: Previously an assistant principal, with twelve years of experience in education, Mr. Decker is no stranger to leadership. He has served as assistant principal at both Oakland High and at Rocky Fork Middle.

According to Director Sullivan: “Mr. Decker is in some ways, coming home to Oakland Middle School.  He served as an inaugural staff member when OMS opened and his leadership eventually involved all aspects of the school’s operation including as a teacher, PLC lead, coach, athletic director, dean and principal designee.” 

His experience as assistant principal at Oakland Middle School and Rocky Fork Middle School, as well as his past four years at Oakland High School, have helped Decker create a plan of leadership which will be effective in pushing the school to greater success.

“During the interview, Mr. Decker impressed the panel as he provided a strong plan to increase the academic outcomes and community involvement at Oakland Middle School,” Director Sullivan remarked.

When asked about why he applied, and his plans for the school, Decker reiterated his experience as well as his hope for building new relationships:

“I look forward to working alongside the students, teachers, parents and stakeholders of the Oakland community to create an effective and safe learning environment,” Decker said. “I feel that my experience as a former teacher, coach and dean at Oakland Middle, my time served as an assistant principal at Oakland High, and the relationships I have built as a member of the Oakland community will allow us to take Oakland Middle School to new heights.”

Dr. Alexandria Jackson, Roy Waldron principal: Dr. Jackson previously served as assistant principal at J.E. Moss Elementary in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She has been working in education since 2006 and has a Doctor of Education in learning organizations and strategic change.

Although she has not worked at RCS previously, Dr. Jackson is no stranger to pushing teachers and students to be all that they can be.

“Dr. Jackson is coming to Rutherford County via Metro Nashville Public Schools where she is currently serving as an assistant principal at J.E. Moss Elementary,” Director Sullivan said. “She has a wealth of knowledge and experience around instruction and organizational learning.  Dr. Jackson will be able to utilize these experiences to ensure academic growth for our students at RWS.”

Dr. Jackson plans to move from Nashville to Rutherford County and establish residency here. While such a move is challenging, Dr. Jackson views it as an integral part of her plan for Roy Waldron School.

“I am passionate about serving the communities I live in, and as a relatively new resident of Rutherford County, this was an opportunity to invest in the county I live in and immerse myself in learning more about Rutherford County Schools,” Dr. Jackson said.  

As a principal, connecting with the students, teachers and community is an important part of shaping the way for academic success of students. If we cannot first learn from others, we cannot expect to teach them.

Dr. Jackson’s enthusiasm for joining RCS and Roy Waldron has given her an edge necessary to successfully lead the school. There is no doubt this joy will serve her students and staff well into the coming year.

“I am excited to be a part of the Roy Waldron School community and my goal is to help support students, teachers, and the RWS community,” said Dr. Jackson. “I know that Roy Waldron is a special place to be, and my goal is to ensure that every student and staff member is successful.”


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