After 16 years of service as the Forsyth County Board of Education’s District 1 representative, board chair and longtime county resident, Ann Crow has stepped down.
Early last year, Crow announced that she would not be running again for her seat on the board and in November, political newcomer and deputy director of the Alpharetta Department of Public Safety Wesley McCall was elected to fill her seat.
Before the official swearing in ceremony for McCall and re-elected board member Kristen Morrissey was held on Tuesday, Crow reflected on her time in the county to the FCN.
Crows feels that the Forsyth County Schools system that she is leaving behind is totally transformed from the one she first got involved with when she and her husband moved into the county in 1984.
She said that coming from the metro Atlanta area, which at that time "had no roots,” Forsyth County and the community’s involvement took her by surprise.
"It just wasn't the same, when you moved up here, the community was invested in its schools and they took care of the kids," Crow said. "The school systems were good, with very good teachers, a caring community, and that's what stuck out to me."
She said that as the county began to grow, and larger subdivisions like Polo Fields were built, that community involvement began to grow and the entire school landscape began to shift with it.
"It brought different people here, with higher expectations," she said. "In the early ‘90s, the chamber of commerce did a quality of life review, got people to talk about what their issues were with the community, what they thought was the most important issue, and it was education."
Crow said that after that review and the community’s insistence on advancing education followed a flurry of changes, including a state law mandating hiring of school superintendents and the creation of the county’s first community-based strategic plan.
These changes, especially the county’s strategic plan, are what Crow believes led Forsyth County Schools to what it is today.
"It's amazing to me that over the years we've had five strategic plans and the basic concepts have always been the same: hiring high-quality staff, good community partnerships, high expectations for kids, being financially stable,” Crow said. “All that is intertwined.”
After spending six “eye-opening” years serving on the board for United Way of Forsyth County, Crow was elected to the Board of Education in 2002, running unopposed after a previous board member decided to step down.
At that point, Crow said that there were roughly 17,000 students at 11 schools around the county. Things didn't stay like that for long.
"We just started to grow … I think the word was out you could come to Forsyth County and it was a great place to get an education and the taxes were a lot cheaper than Fulton County,” Crow said. "And look at us now, we are hitting 50,000 students and 40 schools. That's incredible in a 16-year period of time ... we just couldn't build schools fast enough."
In the space of her 16 years on the board, Crow was involved in the implementation of a wide variety of programs within the system, including the use of technology in the classroom, a focus on Social Emotional Learning, and the learner profile, programs which she states are now engrained in the fabric of Forsyth County Schools.
But to colleagues who know Crow best, what she will most be remembered for is her dedication to community engagement, the thing that first drew her to the county back in 1984.
"In terms of for our whole county, Ann has just been an incredibly engaged board member, and I think that is so important with the growth we have seen in our county," said Forsyth Central High School Principal Mitch Young. "That doesn't just happen; you’ve got to have great leadership."
Young said that when he came to Central five years ago, Crow took him under her wing, helping him meet the people he needed to meet and learn what he needed to learn.
"She ended up really mentoring me in how this community operates, and helped me with some of the players … making my transition so much easier as a school leader,” Young said. “She didn't have to do that, that's not what a lot of board members do throughout the country."
Crow said that the collaboration with the community and school leaders that Young described is exactly what she will miss most about leaving her seat and what she is most proud of when looking back at her career.
She said that collaboration kept her and other board members in tune with what the community needed from its school system and allowed them to pick the right leaders to run the county’s schools.
"The beauty of Forsyth County is that we grow leaders and we let them loose,” Crow said. “As long as you run your school within this parameter, you can do it the way you feel is best for your community. I'm going to miss that terribly."