Polk County Schools Superintendent Laurie Atkins, who began her career in education as an elementary school teacher, has announced she will be retiring at the end of the school year.

In an email sent out to Polk School District staff and faculty on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Atkins said the decision came with “a heavy heart” as she looks to close the book on 30 years with Polk County Schools.

“It has been my distinct honor and privilege to work as a teacher and administrator in this district and to end my career serving as your superintendent,” she wrote. “The relationships, experiences and memories over the years are something I will forever cherish.”

Atkins called the moment “bittersweet” when reached out to by The Polk Standard Journal.

Originally joining Polk County Schools as a teacher at both Northside Elementary and Westside Elementary in Cedartown, became assistant principal at Eastside Elementary in Rockmart in 2000 and then principal in 2002.

She then moved to the district’s administration as director of instruction before being named assistant superintendent in charge of instruction and assessment in 2015. She was then named superintendent in September, 2017.

Atkins took over a school district that had been through tough times, and she moved to try and reestablish a caring, transparent atmosphere when she became superintendent.

While the district still faced difficulties, it improved instruction and achievements for both students and faculty.

Most recently Atkins was faced with how to deal with education and instruction in the time of COVID-19, with the pandemic causing concern among parents and teachers about returning to school in the fall.

After consulting with local Department of Health officials and the state board of education, Polk School District developed a plan that included an option for distance learning and ways to cut down the possible spread of the virus.

Atkins said in her email to staff that the school board will begin a search for her successor as she continues to serve through the end of May.

“I have full confidence that over the next few months that the Polk School District Board of Education will find a suitable replacement that will continue to lead this district forward capitalizing on the success and culture that has been built over my tenure,” she wrote. “I am grateful for my time in Polk School District and will embrace my final months serving and supporting you.”

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