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Fulton’s Reynolds gets Farragut principal nod

Farragut High School faculty, students and parents no longer have to wonder who will lead the high school this fall.

Knox County Schools superintendent Dr. Charles Lindsey named Fulton principal Mike Reynolds to the top job after FHS principal Ed Hedgepeth accepted a position in the school system’s central office. Reynolds said he has already “walked the campus” of FHS and is anxious to get started. “I wanted to get a feel for the place,” he said. “I don’t believe in postponing things.”

Reynolds has served as Fulton principal since 1997 and was assistant principal from 1994. Before that, he taught at FHS for five years. Just as he said his decision to leave FHS for Fulton wasn’t easy, neither was his decision to leave Fulton for FHS.

The same goes for Hedgepeth, FHS principal for the last 14 years. Hedgepeth will soon take on a leadership role for all of the county high schools as director of secondary instruction. Both men said they will work toward smooth transitions out of their current positions and into their new ones.

Reynolds is aware that he’s replacing a strong leader but said, “You replace things. You don’t replace people.”

He said he respects what Hedgepeth has done for FHS and remembers when he was just starting his principalship. “I saw Mr. Hedgepeth come in and do a tremendous job,” he said. “He moved the school forward. He’s done some remarkable things.” Reynolds said he doesn’t want to change what’s working for the school. “My task is to add to what he did,” he said.

And if anyone questions his intentions? Reynolds said, “I am straightforward. What you see is what you get. I don’t know how else to be.” Reynolds does know he plans to sustain FHS’s “great reputation.”

“The expectations I have for FHS are no less than what Mr. Hedgepeth set for the school,” he said. “I have expectations for greatness.”

Reynolds said he places great emphasis on the strength of his faculty. Priorities, he said, will be attracting and retaining top teachers, setting a level of professionalism and encouraging children to do their best. As well as excellence in the classroom, Reynolds said he believes in teaching students the importance of community service. “I’m old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I believe in character,” he said. “I believe in students giving back to the community before they even leave high school.” Reynolds said the converse should also be true. “Kids have pride in their school,” he said. “It is a focal point of the community and should be. We can’t do it alone; we need community support.”

Reynolds said he looks forward to facing the challenges at FHS, some of which will require direct community involvement. One of those challenges is one he has not had to face at Fulton. Enrollment at Fulton is less than 1,000 students. “Farragut is extremely overcrowded,” Reynolds said. “The public needs to support the push for funds to relieve that.” But Reynolds said no matter what future FHS problems may be, he will face them like he always has. “You just have to identify and attack the problem,” he said.

Reynolds said no matter the differences between the two schools, he believes, “kids are kids and respond to being cared for and having a structured environment. Provide those things and you’ll be surprised what they can achieve,” he said.

Reynolds said he looks forward to meeting with the faculty and will stress the importance of working as a team. “I believe in a close staff,” he said. “The only way you can attack problems is with teamwork. This job is hard enough not to work together.” Reynolds said he demands a lot but contends, “It’s not all about work. We have fun, too,” he said.

Reynolds is clear about his basic philosophies on education. “If you don’t want to work and don’t care for kids, this is not the place to be,” he said.

Reynolds career path began when he received his undergraduate degree at the University of Tennessee. When he decided to move into administration, he attended Lincoln Memorial University. He taught at Webb and at Knoxville Catholic, where he was also an assistant principal.

Reynolds left Catholic to teach at FHS. He taught economics and ADVANCED PLACEMENT history and coached baseball and football. He said he enjoyed his time at FHS. “There was a great atmosphere there,” he said. But Reynolds was ready to get back into management. “I left when I had an opportunity to get back into administration,” he said. That’s when Reynolds began his tenure at Fulton and he wasn’t immediately sure he wanted to leave.

“I was reluctant because I was very attached to things going on at Fulton and what all was accomplished.” He said his mind was put to ease knowing that one of his assistants, Katherine Hatcher, a graduate of Fulton, was stepping in to take his place. “She has the same kind of passion and concern for the kids.”

Reynolds said he did not consider taking his new job without talking to his family first.

“Family is where I draw my strength from,” he said. “We don’t make major decisions without talking about them.”

Reynolds said he received the job offer by phone last Thursday. He was at FHS by lunchtime the next day to re-familiarize himself with the campus.

Two members of the Reynolds family already know the ins and outs of FHS. Reynolds will join his children, Taylor, an upcoming senior, and Kali, an upcoming sophomore. Reynolds joked that Kali was OK with the thought of her dad being principal until “she realized I’d be chaperoning all the dances.” But he said, “My kids are their own people.” Reynolds looks forward to playing an even closer role in the lives of his children. “I look forward to be able to hand them their diploma,” he said. “It will be neat to not only serve other people’s children but my own as well.” As principal at West High School, Reynold’s wife Sallee is also serving Knox County high school students.

Reynolds has some immediate plans for FHS including working to develop a business association with FHS alumni, as he did at in North Knoxville with Fulton graduates. “We need a strong endowment program,” he added. Reynolds would also like to establish a PDS, professional development, program. “One of my responsibilities is to teach educators to be professional educators,” he said. “It’s important for interns to know what’s expected of them.”

Reynolds also believes in keeping up with technology and wants to work on developing a long distance learning program.

“Education is like technology,” he said. “If you’re not pushing forward you’re getting behind. It’s about giving kids more opportunities.”

Giving students more opportunities, he said, is something he will continually strive to do. “If I had it my way, school would be open all the time,” he said. “If kids are at school then you know where they are.”

Even though Reynolds said leaving Fulton is bittersweet, he is excited about his new job and takes the challenge seriously.

“If I can’t get the job done they should find someone who can,” he said.


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