New Bulloch County School Superintendent

It may be early August, but more and more Coastal Empire youngsters are back in school. Like in Statesboro, in Bulloch County. Pre-kindergarten schools got their first taste of school--literally--with breakfast this morning. For the older kids, today's new classes, new teachers, and new rules. They planned for 8,500 students, but last-minute registrations pushed that closer to 9,000.

It's also the first day of school for a new superintendent. WTOC had the chance to talk with her today about changes and her first-day jitters. It is a challenge handling that first day, considering this was only her 21st total day on the job. But Dr. Jessie Strickland says it's never too soon to make changes for the better.

"It's been exciting and a challenge to get everything you need to get a good beginning," she told us.

Before teaching at Statesboro High School, Strickland was a professor at Georgia Southern and before that a superintendent in Tennessee, where her district's test scores jumped from 54th to third. Right now, a top priority is the buildings where the students learn.

Maybe Strickland's most urgent challenge will be getting a special purpose sales tax passed to build and renovate schools across the county. Supporters of smaller Portal High want it to remain open while Statesboro High supporters don't want to see their student body cut to send youngsters elsewhere.

"I think we have an intelligent community and they are endeared to their schools and want them to succeed," said Strickland. For now, she says high standards and good customer service (considers the students and parents as customers) will go a long way. She's planning to visit all 15 campuses to see how the first days are going. She's already listening to more appeals to redistrict students with hardships. Plus, she's devoted more staff this year to late registration to give parents more information.

Reported by: Dal Cannady,