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Aikens, Hattaway, and Warnock are finalists in search for next superintendent

The Emanuel County Board of Education met Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at the Central Office and named the finalists for the position of Superintendent of Schools. Those finalists, in alphabetical order, are Anthony J. Aikens of Griffin, Scotty W. Hattaway of Rome, and Dr. Denise B. Warnock of Swainsboro.

According to a press release sent out by the school district later that day, 30 individuals applied for the job. The local BOE then selected from that pool a number of candidates for close review and interviewed them to determine which applicants were best qualified for the position. In the end, Aikens, Hattaway, and Dr. Warnock rose to the top to become the finalists.

Information about all three of these candidates is available at the board office (201 North Main Street, Swainsboro). The Chronicle supports an involved, educated citizenry and encourages the public to take the opportunity to visit the Central Office to research these candidates firsthand. However, The Chronicle requested copies of all three finalists’ applications in preparation for this story to publish today. The biographical elements that follow below are what this journal considers to be highlights from the finalists’ applications. Again, all three of these applications are available to the public in full, minus the exception of legal redactions such as birthdates and Social Security numbers.

According to their applications, all three finalists have always lived where they’ve worked and, if selected as superintendent here, will continue that pattern.

The Emanuel County Board of Education aims to have a new superintendent in place by Wednesday, May 19, 2021.


Anthony J. Aikens

Anthony J. Aikens is currently executive director of administrative services for Griffin-Spalding County Schools. He obtained a bachelor’s and a master’s in secondary mathematics education from Georgia Southwestern State University. He also holds a specialist degree in leadership and supervision from Albany State University.

In July 1998, Aikens began his career as a high school math teacher and coach at Sumter High School in Americus. He stayed in that role until June 2003 when he took an opportunity to teach at a post-secondary institution. Aikens then joined the staff at South Georgia Technical College as a mathematics instructor/department chair, spending three years there, July 2003 to June 2006.

Aikens left South Georgia Tech and rejoined Griffin-Spalding County Schools in August 2006 to take an administrative position. He became assistant principal at Kennedy Road Middle School at that point and remained in that capacity for a year until June 2007.

In August 2007, Aikens moved to Cordele to become assistant principal of Southwestern Elementary with Crisp County Schools. He stayed there one year before returning to Griffin-Spalding County in August 2008.

From August 2008 to June 2013, Aikens served as assistant principal for Jordan Hill Elementary. He left that position to become principal of that school and served in that regard for four years until June 2017. In July 2017, Aikens advanced to his current position of executive director of administrative services and has remained in that role ever since.

His application reflects the following honors and awards: a specialist’s research paper published by Albany State, multiple presentations made to different educational groups and law enforcement agencies, a math achievement at Georgia Southwestern, and STAR Teacher for Sumter County High School.

Achievements of note as described by Aikens on the application were as follows: being instrumental in the opening of Kennedy Road Middle School; supporting and leading the staff as assistant principal at Jordan Hill Elementary to meet and exceed AYP and CCRPI for five consecutive years; creating a culture of inclusion and participation; encouraging staff members to better themselves academically and professionally by providing them with opportunities to complete endorsements such as gifted, ESOL, math, and reading; having a staff retention rate of close to 95 percent; increasing safety and security for students, staff, and administration by building strong relationships with all local emergency services; overseeing multiple renovation projects; and, as executive director of administrative services, fostering a great relationship with principals within the school district. His greatest accomplishment, Aikens wrote, is the long-lasting effects he has had on students.

The following bolded lines of text are prompts that appeared on the application. Aikens’ answers follow.

What do you see as the role of the superintendent in impacting student learning? How do you plan to communicate expectations for student learning to the school district and community at-large?

Aikens: “The superintendent should be a role model in the area of learning leadership. The superintendent must require that all administrators that he leads to develop and establish procedures and processes that are essential for leading learning. He must make sure that all needed resources (human and financial) are available for teaching and learning to take place. He must work with the community to ensure that education and learning are a top priority.

During my first days as superintendent, I will be focused on getting to know the structures and people within the school system and community. My aim will be to listen and observe with the intent of understanding and learning. I will visit each of our schools during this time. As a servant leader, I consider it a priority to provide stakeholders the opportunity to engage in this process with me.

I would first observe to see what policies, processes, procedures and protocols are currently in place and tweak if needed. I will work with the senior leadership team, school administration, academic coaches, and teachers to ensure that everyone in the district is trained in best practices, has a framework to guide instruction, and has the needed resources to successfully teach our students. I would actively listen to the feedback from our staff as to what is working and what is not and make adjustments accordingly. I will evaluate our current assessment strategies to ensure that we are informally assessing without imposing too many summative assessments. I will work with our staff to evaluate our assessments to ensure that we are assessing what we are teaching. I will ensure that we allocate appropriate staff and funds to accomplish system initiatives and goals. I will set up meetings to speak with community leaders and set up opportunities to visit local civic organizations, school PTOs, and school councils.”

Why have you applied to be superintendent for this district? What brought you here and why should you be selected?

Aikens: “I grew up in a small rural community in Alabama. I completed my educational foundation from kindergarten through graduation in the public school system there. I spent 19 years in South Georgia in Americus and Sumter County. Part of this time was in a business private sector, and just over nine of these years was in education at Sumter County High School and South Georgia Technical College. I love the rural areas in south Georgia. I have served at every level of education: teacher at the high school and post-secondary level; assistant principal at the middle school and elementary level; principal at the elementary level; and executive director at the district level. With my teaching and educational leadership at all levels as well as business experience, I feel that I have the qualities and skills that make me a unique candidate and best choice for this superintendent’s position.

I have always strived to be the best at whatever level I found myself. As an educator, my goal has always been to help all students receive the best education possible. That goal broadened as I became a school level administrator to also provide teachers and staff members with the resources available to afford our students every opportunity to be successful. As executive director, the goal broadened even more to provide all schools with those resources. The next level is superintendent. I am interested in a rural district because that is where my educational experiences and roots have been formed.

I am interested in a small- to medium-sized district where my education and business background can be better utilized. I would like to take Emanuel County and make it one of the top school systems in the state. I believe that Emanuel County is a good fit for me and that I am a good fit for Emanuel County.”

Share some examples of things in life that you value most and determine how you live your life—both personally and professionally.

Aikens: “First, let me say that my value system is the driving force behind everything that I am and everything that I do, in all walks of life. However, without question, my values are the core of my professional life and interactions with others; including students, custodians and board members. I value my faith, family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and community.

My value system is strong enough that I have no problem being held to a higher standard. I have always held myself to a higher standard… I believe that all of us as leaders and educators should be held to a higher standard. We have the humbling responsibility to shape the minds and hearts of our students (our future). We should set an example that is above reproach. As a private citizen, any action that I take is always through the prism lens of the fact that I know others are watching me, and I can’t let them down. I am far from perfect, but I strive to do right and I sleep easy knowing that every day I have done my best to treat others well and help where I can. Additionally, I guard any social media use and limit postings to family outings and recognition of my family and friends. In my educational role, I always conduct myself in the highest professional manner. I not only follow the code of ethics for educators but also the morals and ethics that my mom and dad instilled in me, and most certainly, in my Christian faith and beliefs. I value the establishment of a culture and climate of respect, compassion, and caring.”

In his spare time, Aikens enjoys helping with and participating in community events such as packing meals for distribution to needy families with Daybreak Rotary Club and the Doc Holiday Festival. He is a member, Sunday school teacher, choir/praise team member, and ordained deacon at Oak Hill Baptist Church. Aikens is golf hobbyist, is CFO of Griffin Coldwater Creek Property Association, and is a board member and the executive committee treasurer for Spalding Collaborative. Some of his professional associations include the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals, the Georgia Council for Teachers of Mathematics, and the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.

Aikens said to The Chronicle about being one of the finalists, “I have a great deal of respect for the process that we go through. It’s very rigorous and it shows the degree of seriousness the board is placing in the process. I think the citizens of Emanuel County can take comfort in knowing their board is doing their proper due diligence to make the best choice possible for the students and staff there. I’m pleased to have made the cut. I know the board will continue to work hard to make a final selection. I trust the process, and I feel comfortable the one selected will be the right one. While I hope that’s me, I want the person who is the best fit to lead the district there.”


Scotty W. Hattaway

Scotty W. Hattaway is currently deputy superintendent of Floyd County Schools. He has a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture Education from the University of Georgia as well as master’s and specialist degrees from Valdosta State University.

Hattaway began his career as an agriculture teacher at Pierce County High School back in July 1993. He stayed in that role for 15 years until July 2008, at which point he accepted the position of assistant principal of Long County High School.

Hattaway worked as assistant principal for two years at Long County from July 2008 to March 2010, when he was promoted to principal. He served as principal there for five years from March 2010 to May 2015, vacating the position only to become director of support services with the same school district. Hattaway served in that position from May 2015 to November 2017 before becoming superintendent of Lanier County Schools.

From November 2017 to June 2019, Hattaway remained superintendent. He was hired in May 2019 as deputy superintendent of Floyd County Schools, his current position, and remains there today.

Achievements of note as described by Hattaway on the application were as follows: applying for and securing grant funds; budgeting and purchasing for departments and large projects; proposing and implementing CPR, Heimlich maneuver, and seizure training for all system personnel; promoting and implementing a two-way radio inventory; promoted and delegated the harvesting of school timber to add funds to an existing fund equity of $230,000; successfully organizing and transitioning all aspects of Long County High School into a new, $25 million facility; transitioned Long County High into a block schedule; led Long County to make AYP from 2008 to 2011; raised EOCT test scores in every subject and every grade level, nine through 12; added soccer, another ag position, and proposed adding JROTC; led Long County to increases in CCRPI and graduation rates; led the system in teacher retention rates for 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 with 98 percent; completed a School Improvement Plan annually; and designed a systemwide GEMA- and school safety council-approved emergency management plan.

The following bolded lines of text are prompts that appeared on the application. Hattaway’s answers follow.

What do you see as the role of the superintendent in impacting student learning? How do you plan to communicate expectations for student learning to the school district and community at-large?

Hattaway: “I have to be the lead learner for our system. I have to set our direction. I have to develop our people and give them the support, the resources, and the training that may be needed to achieve our goals. I have to work with our principals to redesign our organization, as needed, towards continual improvement.

To communicate our expectations, I will: establish a student advisory board with all grade levels and meet with them systematically at each school to discuss their concerns and get their input; hold listening sessions for staff systematically at each school to discuss their concerns and get their input; hold listening sessions for parents and community members systematically to discuss their concerns and get their input; make “State of the School” presentations to civic organizations and other organizations that will allow me to present; and hold listening sessions with these groups to discuss their concerns and get their input.

Research indicates that the classroom teacher has the greatest influence on maximizing student learning. I would use our strategic plan to communicate our system goals, and the objectives that we plan to utilize in achieving those goals, through a State of our Schools address to all of our stakeholders.”

Why have you applied to be superintendent for this district? What brought you here and why should you be selected?

Hattaway: “I love being an educator. I love building relationships with students. I love building relationships with administrators. I love building relationships with faculty and staff. I love building relationships with community families. l love building relationships with board of education members. I love serving students. I love serving administrators. I love serving faculty and staff. I love serving the community.I love serving board of education members and trying to make recommendations to the board that makes them look like heroes to our community. I love working in a school system that is similar, demographic wise, to the school systems that I have served in for most of my life as a student and a professional education career. I am applying for this job because I will be a positive difference maker in the lives of students, faculty, staff, community members. I bring optimism. I bring a dedication to trying to get the very best out of each and every family member (students, teachers, administrators, staff, parents, and community members of our school system. I will push our family to never forget ‘their why!’ I will push them to make sure that they are giving us great effort each and every day. I will not rest until we all are bought into T.E.A.C.H. E.A.C.H. O.N.E., F.A.M.I.L.Y., S.A.S., and we live it out with our efforts every day that we serve our students, our families, and our community. Esther 4:14 (New International Version) 14 ‘For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?’”

Share some examples of things in life that you value most and determine how you live your life—both personally and professionally.

Hattaway: “My life is based on and lived out daily through my personal relationship and my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Second to that is my relationship with my wife. Next in line are my two daughters. My professional/vocational decision making and actions follow these three convictions as well. Everything else falls into place in chronological order of importance beyond the first four. My goal daily is to love my Lord, my wife, my girls, my team, my community, my state, my nation, and this world enough not to sin. I desire to stay close to the Lord and clean before Him to be able to seek His guidance daily, hourly, and even minute by minute in any and every situation.”

In his spare time, Hattaway enjoys going to church, Bible studying, preparing to teach Sunday school, watching NCAA football, golfing, and being with his family. He has numerous professional and personal affiliations, some of which include the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals, the Georgia Association of School Facility Administrators, the Georgia School Plant Maintenance Association, the Georgia Association of Pupil Transportation, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the UGA Alumni Association, the Valdosta State University Alumni Association, the Long County Chamber of Commerce, First Baptist of Ludowici, Leadership Lanier, the Coastal Plains RESA Board of Control, and the Georgia School Board Association. Hattaway has also attended several conferences with different organizations.

Hattaway said to The Chronicle about being one of the finalists, “I am very grateful to be chosen as one of the three finalists for the superintendent position in the Emanuel County school system. Emanuel County Schools is a system that I have a vested interest in. I student taught in this system as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia many years ago. I grew up just a few miles north in Louisville. I know there are wonderful students, parents, teachers, and administrators in the district. I would love to be a part of the Emanuel County community and grow together.”


Dr. Denise B. Warnock

Dr. Denise B. Warnock is current principal of Swainsboro High School. She has a Bachelor of Science in Middle Grades Education, a master’s in middle grades education, a specialist degree in middle grades education, an educational leadership certification, and a Doctor of Education in Education Administrations (Tier II), all from Georgia Southern University.

Dr. Warnock began her career in education back in August 1993 as a teacher at Swainsboro Middle School. She taught there for 14 years until June 2007, at which point she was promoted again, this time to graduation coach for SMS. Dr. Warnock served in that role until May 2009.

In June 2009, she moved up Tiger Trail to Swainsboro High to work as the school improvement specialist at the superintendent’s request. She stayed in this role for 1 year until June 2010.

Again, at the superintendent’s request, Dr. Warnock was promoted and moved into the first of her administrative roles in July 2010 when she became assistant principal of Swainsboro Middle. She remained as such until June 2012.

In July 2012, she went back to SHS, this time to assume the duties of assistant principal there. She continued to be assistant principal at SHS until November 2012. The next month, December 2012, she was promoted to principal and has continued to be the school’s leader ever since for the last 8.5 years.

Her application reflects the following honors and awards: writing a dissertation to obtain her doctorate, guest lecturing at Georgia Southern, and presenting at several conferences.

Dr. Warnock is also: a past region director for the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals; a member of the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders; president of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International; a member of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators; a member of Phi Lambda Theta Educational Honor Society; a member of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development; a member of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society – GSU Circle; a past licensed mortgage loan originator through the State of Florida; a member of Swainsboro First United Methodist Church; president of the Beta Beta Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International; past president of Swainsboro FUMC’s United Methodist Women; past lay director of Dayspring Walk to Emmaus; past vice president and treasurer of Deer Creek Homeowners Association; and a volunteer for the Pine Tree Festival.

Achievements of note as described by Dr. Warnock on the application were as follows: improving Swainsboro High’s CCRPI of 54 to exceeding the state average twice; leading SHS to learn an institution accreditation score of 323.5; leading SHS to become an AP school and twice being identified as an Advanced Placement Honors School; helping SHS achieve a four-star climate rating, exceeding state and district averages for all standards; collaborating with area industries for workforce development; recently completing a multi-million dollar renovation and innovative culinary arts lab; and designing a new advisement curriculum. Three of the recent four years, under Dr. Warnock’s leadership, Swainsboro High has been named a Georgia Department of Education Beating the Odds School, and for six consecutive years, SHS has averaged between 90 and 95 percent of the points the state awards for student progress, earning teachers and leaders a Level III student growth rating, exceeding the district’s student growth rating. At Swainsboro Middle School, she designed a professional learning plan and facilitated commitment to student growth while promoting a positive school climate. As the school improvement specialist, she wrote Swainsboro High’s eTextbook grant.

The following bolded lines of text are prompts that appeared on the application. Dr. Warnock’s answers follow.

What do you see as the role of the superintendent in impacting student learning? How do you plan to communicate expectations for student learning to the school district and community at-large?

Dr. Warnock: “For growth to occur, stakeholders (staff, students, community members, board members, etc.) must be able to communicate with each other, build relationships of trust, and agree on common goals for the betterment of Emanuel County Schools.

Emanuel County Schools’ strategic plan is up for renewal. This presents an excellent opportunity for the new superintendent to guide stakeholders through the process of revisiting the beliefs/core values, mission, and vision of the school district, and revise or set goals. Strategic planning for the district should mirror school improvement planning targets and vice-versa.

High quality teaching is the best practice, so in addition to hiring and retaining excellent teachers that love kids and believe they can be successful, Emanuel County school leaders need to be developed. Central office personal need to be visible in schools to see that students are actively engaged in learning. Likewise, school administrators should be integral team members in all professional learning activities.

The superintendent should clarify job duties, responsibilities, and expectations to the superintendent’s executive team members, school principals, and system directors to ensure that the organization personnel, budget, transportation, nutrition, facilities, and technology resources support learning and academic growth for all students.”

Why have you applied to be superintendent for this district? What brought you here and why should you be selected?

Dr. Warnock: “I have applied for the position of Emanuel County School Superintendent because I have been encouraged by colleagues, both superiors and subordinates, and community members based on their experience with my skillset, work ethic, and commitment to the Emanuel County community. This is only the third position within our system that I have pursued, the first two being a classroom teacher and assistant superintendent. All other positions I have held within our school system have resulted from promotion or recruitment.

I have a passion for education and enjoy working with educators and students. I am a visionary, and my background in education demonstrates my desire to influence positive change. Throughout my career, I have kept abreast of trends in education, and I am familiar with our community. I believe I have the skills, knowledge, education, and experience needed to enter this position and influence student growth and achievement to move Emanuel County Schools forward. ”

Share some examples of things in life that you value most and determine how you live your life—both personally and professionally.

Dr. Warnock: “I most value my faith, integrity, collaboration, perseverance, and having a servant-heart. Collaboration allows us to lead one another to successful outcomes. This has been an especially important value in my professional life. At all levels, I have found teaming with others and sharing leadership most rewarding.

My faith and trust in God is an overarching value in my life; it gives me strength, wisdom, and direction.

Integrity is the foundation of trusting relationships. In both my personal and professional life, I strive to be honest and do right. Determination and an enduring commitment have enabled me to surpass my limitations and persevere.

I strongly believe in servant leadership and believe leaders add value to others by serving them. In my professional and personal life, I do not ask someone else to do something I would not do. I personally treat members of our leadership teams to lunch each year and likewise, I take my equally valuable custodian staff out for sit-down lunch at least once each summer. ”

In her spare time, Dr. Warnock enjoys being with her family, reading, and participating in small-group Bible study with Swainsboro FUMC and Swainsboro First Baptist. She is an 11-time half-marathon finisher, completing the Rock ’N Roll Series from 2012 to 2020. She also finished a spring triathlon in 2019.

Dr. Warnock said to The Chronicle about being one of the finalists, “I am honored to be selected as one of the finalists in the Emanuel County Schools’ superintendent search. As a longtime resident of Emanuel County, I am fully vested in the success of our school system and look forward to the opportunity to work with all of our schools, staff, students, and our entire Emanuel County community. It would be a privilege to lead the Emanuel County school district and its educational programs as we strive to strengthen our community one student at a time.”

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