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Dawson County says goodbye to three principals
Principals Leaving Howard mug

The Dawson County School System is saying farewell to three of its long-time principals at the end of the school year.

Robinson Elementary School principal Roxanne Howard will be retiring at the end of the current school year.

"I've seen a lot of changes in education and I think it's time for me to start a new chapter in my life. I love what I do and I love Dawson County and Robinson and its kids," Howard said. "It's going to be difficult for me to leave education, but it's time for me to start something new."

Howard, who has 31 years in education, has been principal of Robinson Elementary since 2008.

She said she is looking forward to retirement, but apprehensive, as well.

"Retirement is exciting but scary for me. This is all I've ever known," she said. "I really don't know what's next for me. I'm just excited to be able to rest for a while and then see what comes my way. I'm nowhere near ready to just say I'm done."

Also retiring is Riverview Middle School Principal Bill Zadernak.

"I did the math and I knew that at the end of this year... I was able to retire," he said. "I've been traveling to and from Pennsylvania to take care of my mother and I decided that I could retire to take care of her. If I had to work though, this is where I would stay. I love this job and I love this school."

He said that, after 30 years in education, and being principal since Riverview Middle opened in 2005, he felt he could leave the school in good hands.

"I feel like right now with our CCRPI testing in the top 10 percent in the state and we're getting awards left and right, things couldn't be any better," Zadernak said.

"I hope whoever takes over, 11 years from now they're still doing the same things we believe in that have made us successful."

Zadernak said he planned to enjoy retirement, doing things around the house, but that eventually he would probably get back part time into the work force.

"I may pick up another job part-time at some point, maybe substitute teach," he said. "I know the system and how the classes should be pushed. If I'm subbing, I'll definitely be teaching instead of just sitting there."

Finally, Dawson County Middle School Principal Mark Merges will be leaving the Dawson County School System, but not for retirement.

Merges has accepted a position as the assistant principal and athletic director of Sequoyah High School in his home county of Cherokee.

"It is hard to leave a school you opened, but it was time for a change," he said. "When we opened DCMS we were in the 70th percentile in most content areas. Over the last few years we have been in the 90th percentile and in the top percentile in the state for middle schools."

Merges has been principal of the second iteration of Dawson County Middle School since it opened in 2008.

"I am excited about returning home to a community that I started in and is close to my house," he said. "It was a pleasure to serve this community and I am sure they will continue to perform at a high level."

Long-term school board member Roger Slaton said that the decisions were bittersweet for the system.

"We are losing a lot of good people this year," he said. "Bill is the principal of one of the best performing schools in Dawson County. Mark has helped set up a top-notch middle school with a fantastic staff. Roxanne has been in Dawson County schools since she was five years old. She's one of about 10 of our employees that all graduated together. They will all be missed dearly."

All principals will finish up their contracts with Dawson County through the end of the school year.

The board is estimating that the search for their replacements will be completed by May or June, according to Slaton.