SYLACAUGA – The Board of Education voted 5-0 to approve Jason Bryant as the new Sylacauga High School principal at a called meeting Thursday morning.

Superintendent Dr. Todd Freeman said Bryant was the unanimous choice of the interview committee, composed of five teachers and executive director of teaching and learning Jennifer Rosato. Freeman noted Bryant’s strengths in math and science curriculum planning, assisting at-risk students and community involvement.

“He has a heart for all of the kids and the circumstances they bring with them,” Freeman said. “He’s really sharp. We’re very pleased and excited to have him as principal.”

Bryant has 15 years in education, most recently serving as principal at South Girard School in Phenix City Schools for four years. Previously, he was assistant principal at Opelika High School from 2003 to 2010. He has also been a science teacher in Opelika City Schools and an adjunct instructor at Auburn University. 

Bryant is pursuing a doctorate in education leadership from Auburn University, with an expected completion of fall 2014. 

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to be at Sylacauga High School,” Bryant said by phone Thursday. “I was attracted to Sylacauga because of its small-town feel. My background is in high school, and for the last four years, I have been at an eighth-grade school, so this was an opportunity to get back to a high school setting. There are lot of great things going on Sylacauga and a great superintendent. I like the vision he has for the school system.”

Bryant said he will be at the board’s June 26 meeting. He will take the reins of SHS sometime in July.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the BOE presented its first evaluation of Freeman, in which he received about 63 percent “excellent” ratings and 33 percent “good,” for an overall score of 3.61 points out of 4 points possible. Each board member rated various qualities on a scale of 1-4 points, with 1 being “needs improvement” and 4 being “excellent.”

“Dr. Freeman is completing his first year in our school system and has done an excellent job of learning our system and setting forth long-term goals,” board member Melissa Garris said. “This is reflected in his evaluation, as his two highest composite ratings came in the areas of comprehensive planning and business and fiscal management.”

Point averages for each category rated were: board relations, 3.63; community relations, 3.6; personnel management, 3.54; business and fiscal management, 3.66; comprehensive planning, 3.75; curriculum and instruction management, 3.44; and personal qualities, 3.66. 

“Thank you, Dr. Freeman, for all of your hard work this past year, and we look forward to working with you this coming year to make our schools the best that they can be,” Garris said.

The meeting was the last for board member Skip Smithwick, who decided not to seek another term after 15 years on the board. The BOE thanked Smithwick for his service and presented him with a golden apple.

“I’m thankful for our board members,” Freeman said. “You are all unique and bring a lot of strengths to the table, as Skip does. We are going to miss you, and I appreciate the work you’ve given.”

Smithwick said his time on the board has “been a great ride. I like to think I was an advocate for the teachers and for the downtrodden or the little man who never had representation.” He said new board member Amy Price will be “a good replacement that’s going to come to the board with a lot of assets.”

In other business, the board:

• Approved employment of: Mike Robinson, executive director of technology; Jodi Shaw, Pinecrest Elementary teacher; and Kendra Chapman, Pinecrest instructional assistant.

• Approved the resignations of: Tina Fleaman, SHS assistant softball coach; Christie Caine, assistant head softball coach; and Robby Davis, SHS science teacher.

The next regular board meeting is June 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Office.