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Leon Sheffield gets new principal
Board also selects supervisor for special education

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

The Decatur school board promoted two into administrative positions and accepted a retirement Thursday at a called meeting.

The board promoted Stefanie Underwood to supervisor of special education and Rachel Poovey to Leon Sheffield Elementary School principal.

Bob Cameron, supervisor of Pupil Personnel and the Centers for Alternatives to Suspension and Expulsion, retired after 34 years, including 33 in Decatur schools. He spent many of those 33 years coaching basketball at Brookhaven Middle School.

Underwood moves from English-as-a-Second-Language and federal compliance coordinator to fill the special-education position left vacant with the retirement of Dr. Bill Gilchrist.

Superintendent Sam Houston credited Underwood with the development of the ESL program.

The city’s Hispanic population went from fewer than 30 in 1994 to more than 1,200 in 2007. Underwood started as a special education teacher in 1992, moved to behavioral specialist in 1994 and became a coordinator in 2000.

“I feel sure that Stefanie has the background and experience to build on the excellent program that Dr. Gilchrist built,” Houston said.

Reorganization

Houston said Underwood would study the special-education program and possibly make some changes to the organizational structure.

The school system is also advertising the coordinator’s position for the developmental program, which previously had its own supervisor, Tom Maynor, who recently retired.

The coordinator would answer to the special-education supervisor.

Underwood said she is ready for the responsibility that comes with special-education supervisor. Special education is fraught with compliance and legal issues, and lots of paperwork, she said.

“It’s a huge change, but I’m looking forward to it,” Underwood said.

Underwood and her husband, Jack, have four children.

As new principal of Leon Sheffield, a grade 3-5 magnet school, Poovey takes another step up as she replaces the retiring Barbara Sittason. Poovey spent 10 as a special-education teacher and then as an intervention specialist at Somerville Road Elementary.

She spent the past two years as Oak Park Middle School assistant principal.

She said being principal at a school of gifted students will be much different from handling discipline at a middle school or working with special education and disabled children. She believes, however, those positions prepared her for the new post.

“It’s ironic that this position came available at a time when I was ready for a new challenge,” Poovey said.

She received training and was part of Oak Park’s implementation of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Program, so Houston and Poovey are hoping that this experience will be beneficial in getting the IB Primary Years Program implemented at Leon Sheffield.

Houston believes Poovey will fit well at the magnet school because high achievers also
have special needs, they’re just different from those of special-education and disabled students.

“Rachel is a high-energy person, and she’s got a lot of experience that she can use to develop her students’ strengths and weaknesses,” Houston said.

Poovey and her husband, Michael, have two children.

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