Central Gwinnett's Maryanne Grimes named Principal of the Year
By Keith Farner
LAWRENCEVILLE — Even Mom can be surprised.
Central Gwinnett Principal Maryanne Grimes speaks to teachers, staff and district staff on Thursday during a celebration where she was named the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals High School Principal of the Year. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
That was the case on Thursday afternoon at Central Gwinnett High when faculty, staff, district officials and CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks met for what Principal Maryanne Grimes figured was a meeting about the school's academy model.
As it turned out, they were all there to surprise Grimes and tell her she was named the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals High School Principal of the Year. Affectionately called the “Academy Mom” by the four other principals in Gwinnett who have the academy model, Grimes quickly deflected credit to her staff.
“‘I'm blessed,” she said. “Every day, I get to do what I love, and that's an honor. These kids, here, are amazing, and they inspire me every day to work harder.”
Grimes said the award should be renamed for the “School of the Year” and outlined a list of attributes her staff does to help students, from tutoring, to giving them a jacket. The staff even raised thousands of dollars recently for an assistant principal who recently had a heart transplant.
“Every day they say, ‘What else can I do,'” Grimes said. “These people give and give and give, but they also want excellence in their craft. That's high priority.”
Wilbanks said that for as long as he's known Grimes, and in whatever role she held, she's always been student-centered.
Chris Kimbro, a counselor at Central, said Grimes cares about the child as a whole, academically and personally.
“She really cares about who they are, and who they are becoming,” Kimbro said. “What she said, about it really being for the school, she really means that, and that struck me.”
In the last year, Central has rolled out an academy model and further developed a relationship with the Lawrenceville business community. GASSP executive director Melton Callahan said that leading an academy model made a difference on Grimes' application.
Gwinnett County Public Schools CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks speaks at Central Gwinnett High on Thursday during a celebration where Principal Maryanne Grimes was named the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals High School Principal of the Year. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
“I think it helps, rather than the traditional (model), it shows innovation,” Callahan said.
Grimes said she wasn't sure how much the academy model played a factor in her application, but it's making a difference with students, who are engaged in the ownership of the process.
“It's forcing them to look at things differently,” she said. “It's doing exactly what we wanted it to do. It's personalizing learning, and upping the rigor.”
Callahan said Grimes fits a style of principal that leads by example and stands in the line of fire.
“That's great support for the other staff members to know that your boss is going to be up there with you,” he said.
The other finalists for the award were Gene Starr of Appling County High and Kevin Smith of Jefferson High.
The finalists were selected by the GASSP selection committee from a pool of statewide nominees. The criteria for selection includes professional and school excellence, as well as evidence of exemplary work in collaboration, curriculum, instruction and assessment and personalization of the school's work to meet individual student needs.
Each of the finalists also participated in an interview process.
Grimes has been the principal at Central since 2012, and previously was an assistant principal and principal at GIVE Center West. She's worked in Gwinnett County Schools since 1986, and has also served as a teacher and counselor.
Along with Central, she's also worked at Dacula High, McIntosh High and Georgia State University.
Grimes earned a bachelor's degree in special education from Dowling University, and master's and specialist degrees in school counseling, along with certification in educational leadership all from Georgia State.