By Kim West
After 22 years as an educator, Garth Garris will step into familiar territory as the new principal at Elkmont High School.
Garris, 44, who taught social science and physical education and coached boys basketball at Elkmont since 2010, was the final choice by Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk after a statewide, 62-applicant search to fill the vacancy left by the May 31 retirement of Stan Davis.
The Limestone County Board of Education approved Garris’s hiring and contract during Tuesday’s board meeting.
Garris, who graduated from Elkmont in 1986, will start work Monday with a salary of approximately $87,000. As with all first-year Limestone principals, his probationary contract is for 12 months and officially begins July 1.
Prior to teaching at Elkmont, Garris was principal at Madison County High School in Gurley, assistant principal/athletic director at Hazel Green High School, assistant principal at Monrovia Elementary School and a teacher and boys basketball coach at East Limestone High School.
Garris said his decision to switch from Madison County principal to teaching again was fueled by a desire to spend more time with his wife Allison and their son, Brady, an honor-roll student and a rising freshman at Elkmont.
“It really was a family decision because at the time my son was still going to Creekside (Elementary), and I tried to persuade him to go to Madison County,” said Garris, who has a master’s degree in education administration from the University of North Alabama. “I just wanted to be a part of his life, and then the opportunity arose at Elkmont to be a basketball coach. I thought I would be a teacher and coach until I retired but sometimes (the unexpected) happens.”
Garris said he intends to continue the progress made by Davis at Elkmont, while also preparing for the new school year and replacing the five teachers that retired this year.
“It’s an honor and privilege to have worked under Stan Davis, and I will try to continue what he has been doing. My focus in the next few weeks will be on getting the school open, filling the jobs of those that retired and making sure the physical plant is ready …” Garris said. ”I really appreciate the board and Dr. Sisk giving me this opportunity, and I’m going to promise that I will work hard, have a good attitude and work hard for the students because putting them first is our priority. Elkmont is a great community, and I’m looking forward to getting started.”
The top candidates
The other four finalists were Piney Chapel Elementary School principal William “Bill” Hardyman, whose contract was renewed Tuesday for three years; Hartselle High School guidance counselor and director of athletics Johnny Berry; Mobile County seventh-grade math teacher Dr. Hunteria Nelson; and former James Clemens High School assistant principal Dr. Travis Schrimsher Jr., who was hired Tuesday as the new principal at Decatur High School.
“Any one of the five finalists could do the job very well, and we had an outstanding pool of applicants that made the final decision very difficult,” said Sisk, who marked his one-year anniversary Tuesday as the school system’s top administrator. “In the end, Mr. Garris’s replies to interview questions, his interaction with the teacher committee and his solid academic record led me to believe he would be the best choice for the job.”