Dana Ayers


By Dana Ayers


July sure has been a hot and busy time for Jackson County Public Schools! 

At this point, we have successfully navigated five weeks of our summer program opportunities at Smoky Mountain High, Blue Ridge and Fairview. Our final day of summer activities is July 30. Students have seemingly enjoyed a sense of normalcy.

Our JCPS staff has successfully met the challenge of serving hundreds of students, staffing for school nutrition and bus drivers, and managing a full weekly schedule. This summer program is unlike any enhancement program we’ve ever offered.

Even though there are about two weeks remaining, my attention is on the upcoming 2021-22 school year. We are eager to welcome students back to school on Monday, Aug. 16, for a normal, five-day a week schedule. To prepare for this, I look forward to meeting many of our families and community members in the upcoming “Meet the Super!” events being held at three locations across the district.

These events are open to the public and offered at several schools in the upcoming weeks. My intent is to interact with our JCPS community and meet people in an informal setting. The meet-n-greets are from 5:30-7 p.m. on July 29 in the Blue Ridge School gym, from 5-7 p.m. Aug. 3 in the Scotts Creek Elementary School gym and from 5:30-7 p.m. Aug. 5 at the Smokey Mountain Elementary School cafeteria. The SMES Parent-Teacher Organization will also offer a spaghetti “Supper with the Super!” I encourage families to attend any of these dates. Refreshments will be available at all locations. 

A few important staffing changes have occurred in the past few weeks within JCPS. We welcome new principal Heather Reidinger to Jackson Community School. She has more than 15 years of experience in education and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the school. She begins her tenure, tentatively, on Aug. 2.

We bid farewell to former principal Angela Lunsford as she begins a new educational journey. The staff is excited to have Reidinger join the Jackson Community School team!

Additionally, a familiar name is stepping into the role of JCPS Human Resources Director. Teri Walawender, current Blue Ridge School principal, will officially begin her new position on Aug. 2.

Walawender has more than 24 years experience as an educator and administrator in both Macon and Jackson counties. She has been learning over the last few weeks and will bring much to her new role. I am grateful to have both Reidinger and Walawender in these key roles!

As the focus changes from summer programs to school returning in the fall, I have to share the most powerful news regarding academics! For the first time in many years, JCPS will have uniform math and reading curricula across all kindergarten through 8th-grade classrooms.

Our teachers will be provided district professional development and implementation plans to support these new materials as well as ongoing learning opportunities to strengthen instruction throughout the year. This is an exciting time for our instructional leaders; students will greatly benefit from these new resources.

Lastly, I invite families to support our upcoming athletic events. In just the first week of school, our student-athletes will participate in soccer, volleyball and football games. I hope to see many folks supporting our JCPS coaches and athletes.

Here’s to great beginnings in Jackson County Public Schools for the 2021-22 school year!

Dana Ayers is superintendent of Jackson County Public Schools.