As the school year began at , the teachers, students and parents saw a familiar new sight: another new principal, the seventh in a short amount of time. But Melanie Pearch says she's in it for the long run. Brookhaven Patch caught up with her to ask her how she got into running a school, first week challenges and what she likes best about the area.
What inspired you to go into school administration?
Melanie: I'm from a family of educators and my dad was a principal, so I've always kind of been around that. While teaching, I took on little leadership roles and just from there, the closer you get, the closer you work with administration as a teacher, you say, "Oh, I can do this and I might do it differently, I might do this." As I went along, it just seemed like the logical next step. And it's never boring! One year before teaching, I worked at an insurance company and I was so bored. Since 1994, that has not been the case.
What do you like best about being the principal?
Melanie: I was the principal [at Doraville's Cary Reynolds Elementary] for 10 years before coming here. I love being able to really have a vision and take risks to get there, get the staff behind you, know they're going to have my back on moving forward with these things. I know it sounds so cliche, but working towards that vision and just being able to do what we want to do in a building without someone just breathing right over our heads.
How was the first week of school?
Melanie: [Woodward is] a different culture, even though it's the same exact demographics as Cary Reynolds. They're used to doing things a certain way, so it's been challenging trying to win the parents. I'm making some systematic changes, like they can't go down to classrooms during the day, things like that. I thought because I can speak Spanish and tell them that, they would be fine with it, but they've been doing things a certain way, so it's been hectic. It's been hectic, challenging and fun.
What do you like best so far about the Brookhaven area?
Melanie: Oh, my gosh. I feel like it's just so city, like it's just cool. I think it's just--I think it's so great for Woodward to be part of it. You feel like you're part of a city and part of...this newness of everyone, of the community. I still feel like Woodward might be kind of--when you say Brookhaven, I don't think people think of Woodward, so I think it's exciting that now we are part of it and it's going to kind of help us build and work towards that vision that we have here.
It's going to put Woodward on the map a little more, such a little forgotten school, when people ask me where it is I'm like "Uh, I don't know if it's considered Chamblee, Brookhaven, kind of in between 85, near that Brookhaven, that fun spot..." It's just like a fun little community and I think Woodward will get back into the forefront.
What is one thing you would like members of the Woodward community to know about you?
Melanie: Number one, that I'm here for the long run. I know they've had a lot of change in principals, I think six in the past six years. I'm committed. I'm really enjoying it. I'm committed to staying here.
We're ready to make some positive changes for the kids. We have this vision that the kids are going to be successful. We want them exposed to the nearby  high school, want to get them in the high school to see some higher-level classes. We want to expose them to college campuses to make that an expectation, not the exception.
We have huge plans for the kids here and they all include college or some kind of higher-level learning, not necessarily university because there's many other routes to take, but just some kind of continuation and, really, a lot of success.
We're just committed to that and excited for it and the staff is really excited for it as well. We're all thinking, at our meetings, just all this brainstorming, "Let's do this and we can do this and let's get this community involved and this company and this restaurant wants to do this..."
You know, our goal is to keep working towards that. We keep getting these setbacks of "oh my gosh, we've got to set this procedure in place, oh my gosh, we have 912 kids, we've never had this many kids," things like that that we keep getting and we're like "OK, let's keep pushing on and pushing on."