Cherry “learning the process,” visiting schools in first days as director

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

New Clay County schools director Donnie Cherry has spent his first few days on the job “learning the process” and visiting schools, he said recently.

“It’s been pretty hectic,” Cherry told the HORIZON in an interview conducted during a visit to Clay County High School. “I’m just trying to take my time and learn the process.”

 

Cherry, a lifelong educator and coach for many years, replaced Dr. Doug Young, who announced his retirement in November. Cherry was hired by the school board at its regular January meeting. 

“I’m just looking at where our school system is and trying to meet everyone,” Cherry said. “It was a goal of mine to be in every school in the county in the first two weeks.” His visit at CCHS completed the four-school circuit, having earlier been at Maple Grove, Hermitage Springs and Celina K-8. 

“I wanted to see first-hand how things are going,” he said, adding he has depended very heavily on help from the school Central Office staff in his first few days on the job.  “I’m very grateful for their help. They’ve been just super,” he said. 

Long career

Cherry is in his 35th year as a Clay County educator, having spent all of them at Hermitage Springs, where he graduated high school in 1969. He received his teaching degree from Middle Tennessee State University in 1973, and started teaching at Hermitage Springs later that year. 

He served the past eight years (January 2001–January 2009) as principal of the school. 

He coached several different teams during his career, and spent 23 years as the boys high school basketball coach. He also coached the high school basketball girls for two years, junior high basketball for a handful of years, and also coached baseball for a few seasons. 

Headed in the right direction

Cherry is optimistic about the future of education in Clay County and its students.

“We’ve got great kids here in Clay County, and they can succeed at anything they want to do,” Cherry said. “My goal is to continue to keep things headed in the right direction (in the school system). I think we are on a very good footing.”

Cherry and other local education officials are looking with interest at the economic stimulus package that will apparently be passed at the federal level, and also at a Tennessee budget shortfall that could reach $1 billion.

“We’re anxious to see how a federal stimulus package will affect things in Tennessee,” Cherry said. On the state level, “we hear they will protect K-12 education” in dealing with the budget shortfall, he said. 

“We’re expecting some cuts from the state level,” Cherry said. “Hopefully, we’ll know something about that within the next month.”

Denton principal at Hermitage Springs

With Cherry’s hiring as schools director, Cherry Ann Denton replaces him as the new principal at Hermitage Springs School.

Denton had been serving as assistant principal. She is also a lifelong educator with the school there.