It’s been one month since a new director of Manchester City Schools took office. Dr. Joey Vaughn, who previously worked as Coffee County School’s deputy director, took office Feb. 1, replacing former director Lee Wilkerson.
Vaughn has an extensive background in education – in his 29 years, he has worked at every level between his time in the city and county school systems. As a lifelong Manchester resident, Vaughn hit the ground running and is excited to put plans in motion for city schools.
“Manchester City Schools is a wonderful school district; there are a lot of good administrators and a lot of good people. The community has always been supportive of the district and teachers,” Vaughn said. “I came into a situation that is well grounded.”
Coming from a district with nine schools, not including the KOSS Center or ESP, to a district with three schools, Vaughn explained it wasn’t a culture shock.
“There are fewer schools and fewer students, yet the needs are the same,” he said.
The size of the city schools, as well as the lack of a high school and transportation system, make it so administration has more time to focus on the educational and social and emotional needs of the students and their families. It allows Vaughn to focus on student healthy, happiness and safety.
“I believe if they are healthy, happy and safe, they can learn more efficiently,” he said.
In his first month, he’s seen many opportunities students have to grow and learn and to have experiences that prepare them for high school, as well as the rest of their lives, he said. Vaughn mentioned Westwood Elementary School’s 1:1 initiative for every student to have access to a computer, seeing writing samples on the walls and children reading show him the emphasis schools put on literacy, and having science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in the third through fifth grade really impress him and makes his job rewarding.
“I’m excited about the future of Manchester City Schools and the partnership the city schools have with the City of Manchester to help Manchester City Schools and Coffee County grow as a community,” Vaughn said.
After the school system’s budget is made and changes curriculum and staffing are solved, Vaughn’s plans for the future includes focusing on the culture and school climate at Westwood Middle School.
“I think the climate and culture of a building is vital to the success. So we want Westwood Middle to push our students academically, but also have a school climate that is full of respect, honor and dignity,” he said.
“I want elementary programs to have a strong literacy focus so that our students have a love and ability to read at the levels that will help them be successful throughout their lifetime,” Vaughn added.
Vision and goals
Vaughn compiled his thoughts, vision and goals for Manchester City Schools and sent them to the Times via email.
In the statement, Vaughn said he wants to provide students foundational skills to help them be successful throughout their lives and work with their families provide the support they need to help their children.
To do this, literacy in early grades (Pre-K through second) will be emphasized to ensure all students are reading at or above their grade level, developing strong writing skills will be prioritized before students reach high school and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) opportunities in the third through fifth grades will be expanded. Vaughn is also looking to add the arts into the STEM program, effectively changing it to STEAM.
Middle school grades will be getting a great deal of attention as well, Vaughn explained.
“The 1-1 initiative is incredible because it is preparing our students for work and postsecondary education opportunities,” Vaughn said in the email. “Students will leave Manchester City Schools with the ability to work academically in the digital world (submitting assignments on-line, researching, and creating work). There are so many opportunities for them and we have to help provide the background information to assist them as they begin looking at the next phase of their lives.”
In the email, Vaughn later added, “We have so many talented students and we will encourage their growth in all areas. We will also look for ways to introduce Career and Technical Education to our middle school students as they begin to think about possible career options. Ultimately we want our students to be incredibly prepared for high school when they leave our school district and we will make that happen.”
Vaughn’s goal is to make Manchester City Schools a cornerstone for the community, he said. The school system should make families and businesses want to place roots in Manchester.
“Our kids have big dreams and that is our responsibility,” Vaughn said in the statement. “I want our kids to be academically solid and for them to go to Central High School well prepared and then to go into the workforce, trade schools, or college and to have success at whatever they choose because of the investment that we have put into them and their future. They deserve that – Manchester deserves that.
“There is work to do – our community changes daily and we must be ready to meet those changes,” Vaughn concluded in the email.
Vaughn started out as a middle school teacher in the county. He then went to Hickerson Elementary School to be the principal. In this position, he learned the needs to the younger community and families and how important it was to meet the students at their level and bring them up from there.
After Hickerson, he became Coffee Middle School’s principal, which was strange for him at work – he went from working as a teacher to overseeing his peers. The experience offered him the insight as to what middle schoolers needed to better prepare them for high school.
From there, his career moved him from county schools to Manchester City Schools. He became the city school’s director of curriculum and worked with attendance. At this level, he could see how everything came together.
Then, he was presented the opportunity to go to Central High School as the principal.
“I had coached at the high school level, but never taught,” Vaughn said.
Being at the high school gave him a completely new perspective – he had to make decisions in a split second without losing understanding and empathy of the situation.
“That was an incredible experience. I loved working at CHS,” he said. “I’m very proud of the work we did there.”
Vaughn added his time at the high school was valuable both professionally and personally, as it taught him so much about being a better leader.
In July 2018, he was offered and accepted the position of deputy director of Coffee County Schools.
Nearly eight months later, he accepted his current job as director of Manchester City Schools. He has a 3.5 year contract with the city school system.
“I’ve been in education for 29 years. I have had the opportunity to experience all levels of education. Not many people have been able to work at middle school, elementary school, high school and teach at college – I love to go to school. I love education. I have moved every 5-6 years. I have always stayed at least 5 years,” Vaughn said.
“I’m committed to working with Manchester City Schools,” he concluded.