Potts reflects on his time at SHS; discusses why he resigned

Bruce Potts in his office at Sonoraville High School. The long-time principal will step away from the position later this month.

With what appeared to be the abrupt resignation of Sonoraville High School Principal Bruce Potts last week, many in the community have voiced concerns over his resignation, insinuating it was an ouster by higher powers. But Potts shared this week that it’s just not so: his resignation was his own decision and had been months in planning. The simple truth is, Potts wants to expand on his career in education and is looking to become a superintendent.

“I shared sort of an outline and a plan that my family, and myself, have really been thinking about (continuously) for a month, and it actually started back for me in October around fall break,” said Potts.

Potts said his reason for resigning is that his goal is to expand his career and to do so, wants to take on a superintendentship, and that there is no animosity with Gordon County Schools.

“I’m thinking that I aspire now to be a superintendent at some point in my career, but my clock is ticking,” said Potts. “I’ll be 54 in April. If I’m going to be a superintendent, I really need five years in the superintendency to make an impact in a district. I have a passion for kids; I love being around kids. Leading a district is the next thing in my sights.”

So Potts has drawn up a plan to take unused vacation time to search for a superintendent position.

“Utilizing the vacation days (84 days total) I have accrued is my next steps,” said Potts. “From Feb. 21 through June 28, I’m going to really network and try to find my next steps. I trust the Lord that He’ll walk with me during that time, and if there’s a superintendent’s position there, I think He will put it in my sights. If there’s not, He’s got another plan for me. I told the seniors this week, I liken it to standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and trusting that next step is going to be one of faith and that the Lord will put a stepping stone, and then another stepping stone and I trust that and I lean on that. I know He’s got a plan.”

If Potts does not find a position by late June, he’ll simply retire from education and go to work in the private sector, saying that his time as head of Sonoraville could not have been any more rewarding.

“A little over 13 years of being a Phoenix has been a storybook,” said Potts. “I couldn’t write a better book; if I could write a book, I don’t know that I’d change anything. I’ve grown professionally. I’ve watched teachers come in- first year teachers that are single and get married, have kids. I sort of feel like a grandfather. It’s been special. Principals lasting for 13 years is not heard of- I’m a little bit of an anomaly. Life expectancy is about five years in a principalship, and I’ve made it 13, so that’s special that longevity has been there. The Lord’s got a plan and I’m trusting in it.”

Potts reflected on those 13 years at Sonoraville and has many proud moments and accomplishments throughout his tenure, most focusing on growing the school, serving the community, student success and relationships.

“That first year, Mr. Mike Stanton took a chance on a greenhorn assistant principal,” said Potts. “I knew we were going to grow. That first year, the Board handed me resumes for a football coach to hire- had never done that before. We hired an assistant principal in Allen Bowen. Trace Vaughn was the third person I helped hire. That first year, bringing 35 fresh faces on this campus, knowing they were going to impact this community, and a lot of those 35 are still here. Then, in the second year, bringing 33 more in, you’re looking at 68 new faces coming into Gordon County and making a difference at Sonoraville High School. Those first two years were the biggest impact years for me professionally, just networking and finding the right fit and praying that God would bring the right people to us.”

Student success is another proud accomplishment Potts lists during his tenure.

“The consistency that we’ve exhibited over the 13 years. We’re one of the highest performing high schools in Northwest Georgia,” said Potts. “When you start breaking down our RESA district or if you’re looking at a standardized test, CCRPI scores or AYP, we’ve consistently been number one or number two,” said Potts. “We’ve out performed every school at some point during my tenure here and it benefits the kids.”

“The staff that we’ve assembled, we have a heart for the kids,” said Potts. “And we have students all across the spectrum. We have homeless kids living in cars; I pulled a kid out of a barn living with a space heater a couple of years ago. We’ve got kids that come from affluent situations that have hearts of gold and are not spoiled. We have hard working kids overall. And the staff we’ve assembled has a heart for all of these kids. If you’ve got a core belief in kids, and you’ve got a passion for kids, your (school) culture is going to be phenomenal. And our culture far exceeds anything we do as a staff. And if you’ve got culture, the curriculum takes care of itself. We’ve got a culture here (at Sonoraville) that will transcend Mr. Potts, will transcend anything that’s going on. We believe every person is important, from teacher to student to bus driver to cafeteria worker and custodial staff.”

Potts is also proud of how the school has served the community, especially during late January 2013 when a tornado blew through the Sonoraville community.

“Community-wise, something I’ll reflect on the rest of my life is the tornado,” said Potts. “That event, and how our community stepped up to help one another, shows what it means to be a Phoenix. Parents, kids, teachers and staff went the extra mile. We stayed here day in and day out for about seven or eight days, feeding the community, serving the community, working in unison with the Sheriff’s Office, Samaritans Purse, Emergency Management, all the relief agencies with Church of Christ, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterian and Adventist- we had representatives from all of those agencies on this campus and we were able to coordinate and really clean up in a hurry and get people back on their feet. The other schools were a part of that, but the large bulk of it was right here and it speaks well of who we are as a community. We preach it every day. We are a learning community pursing a higher standard of excellence. It’s not just something we say, it’s something we try to live every day.”

Potts is also proud of the tremendous extracurricular growth at the school.

“The growth of our extracurricular activities, from fine arts to athletics, has been phenomenal,” said Potts. “Coach Mashburn, as our athletic director, has grown the athletic program unbelievably. Hannah Nelson handles the fine arts side. We are competing across the State. We are competing locally in those areas. Our career tech and agriculture education programs...we’ve got national champions, I can’t even county the national champions and national qualifiers in 13 years.”

Potts is proud of his accomplishments at the school and expects great things for Sonoraville High in the future.

“I want to see the continued growth of Sonoraville High School,” said Potts. “I want us to live what we talk about, want us to be a learning community. The academic aspect of what we offer is going to carry a kid for a lifetime, but the experiences gained, the high school experiences, are going to make for great memories for kids. Beyond Mr. Potts being here, I hope those are things that the staff and the future Phoenix Nation will hang their hats on: they are coming to a place where teachers care about them and will build relationships with them, lifetime relations. That needs to continue for us to be success.”

As Potts looks forward to his future, he relies on his faith to get him through the next few months.

“I’m excited to see what the Lord’s going to put in front of me,” said Potts. “I don’t speak of faith enough around the kids, but I hope my actions over 13 years exhibit what it means to be a believer in Jesus’ teachings. If we will serve one another and love one another unconditionally, He’ll bless and honor everything in it.”