As she strides through the long, pristine halls of Denmark High School, inspecting classrooms and greeting staff as they happen by, principal Heather Gordy is the spitting image of a captain examining a new ship.
All the while, she waxes eloquent on the school’s different programs, staff she has worked to bring on board, the layout of the school and its ample acreage – a proud, satisfied smile paints her face.
The last year has been a chaotic storm of preparations, she said. Gordy walks past the school gym, it’s enclosed courtyard and cozy media center, and points at finishing touches and other preparations that still must be completed before the sea of Denmark students come rushing in.
But in a little over a month, all the hard work will finally come to a head when the seventh traditional high school in Forsyth County is opened to the public for the first time.
"I'm really looking forward to building the Denmark community,” Gordy said, standing feet away from the school’s entrance, under the gigantic school sign.
Gordy grew up in the close-knit community of Forsyth County, going to school at Cumming Elementary, Otwell Middle School and graduating from Forsyth Central High School.
"I wasn't born here, but I think moving here in fourth-grade makes me pretty local. So I have seen a lot of changes in Forsyth County since then," Gordy said. "I don't think the year I graduated from high school anybody would have ever dreamed that we would be where we are right now, with close to 50,000 kids in our school system.”
Being a Forsyth native and longtime Forsyth educator, Gordy said that goal No. 1 for the new school will be solidifying and spreading the Denmark community and fostering relationships within and without the school.
“So starting with students and teachers in our building, I want to help shift their mindset to becoming Denmark Danes and build the community around the schools that feed into Denmark, bringing all those different groups of people together,” Gordy said.
This emphasis on relationships in education is one that goes back to Gordy’s first teaching job as a sixth-grade teacher in south Georgia and followed her back to Forsyth through 26 years as an educator.
"We are also focusing on building relationships with kids, because I believe that kids need to know that we care about them,” she said. “It goes back to the old adage that, "they don't care how much we know until they know how much we care."
According to her, those relationships will come about through effective inter-school communication, transparency with school families and by following students throughout their school careers, from kindergarten to graduation day.
"I believe that it's not just the high school that gets students graduated; it's a K-12 effort,” she said.
But before she became one of the county’s newest principals, Gordy has had a long list of educational achievements. Gordy returned to the county to teach at Forsyth Central High School. She went to take an administrative role at South Forsyth High School, then helped to open Lambert High School. Most recently, she was principal at West Forsyth High School for three years.
“We are very excited to have Heather Gordy opening our seventh traditional high school,” said Forsyth County School superintendent Jeff Bearden. “She has leadership experience at a number of our schools and worked tirelessly last school year to hire the right staff and engage her students and their parents.”
Bearden said that the work that Gordy and her staff have done over the last year will ultimately improve the school district as a whole for years to come.
“Heather has built a strong foundation of excellence for the new Denmark community, and we look forward to watching the Danes make their mark,” he said.
Gordy said that the grand opening of Denmark is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 28.
"The building will be open for people to walk around and see the highlights. So we are really looking forward to get to know everybody,” she said.