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From one family to another: Steve Miller takes over as principal at Mashburn after leading Otwell Middle for 14 years
Steve Miller
Steve Miller will take over as Mashburn Elementary School's principal for the 2022-23 school year after serving at Otwell Middle School for 14 years. Photo courtesy of Miller.

Steve Miller has served as principal at Otwell Middle School for 14 years, building up a community he loves and is proud to call his own. But this summer, he’s excited to start a new chapter at a school he has been a part of for even longer.

Miller and his wife, Tammy, moved to Forsyth County from New York in 1995, settling into the Mashburn Elementary School district where they knew their oldest son would go in a just a few short years.

The couple was excited to send him off to his first kindergarten class at an elementary school that Miller said felt like a small, tight-knit community. And after many years, he said that community feel has never changed.

He and his wife went on to have 12 kids in total — five biological girls and seven adopted children, six of whom have special needs — and each one of them attended Mashburn just as their siblings did.

“I’ve been a parent [at Mashburn] from 1998 to 2021 when my youngest went to Otwell with me,” Miller said. “The 2021-22 school year, the one that just passed, is the only year in the past 23 years that I haven’t been a part of Mashburn in some capacity.”

So when Miller got the notification from the district that Mashburn’s principal, Carla Gravitt, would be retiring after the end of the school year, he immediately knew he wanted to apply for the position. By January, he found out he would be Mashburn Elementary’s next principal, beginning in the 2022-23 school year in August.

“Now, I get to go back and be on the inside and give back to the school that took care of my kids for 22 years,” Miller said. “It’s so exciting for me to be able to do that.”

Miller started teaching in 1995 in New York before moving to Georgia just five months later to work as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in Gainesville City Schools. After seven years, he took on school leadership as an assistant principal at Gainesville Middle School. He later moved to Buford City Schools where he served as a high school principal.

He was finally able to break into Forsyth County Schools with his role as principal at Otwell Middle School where he has been for the past 14 years while working as an adjunct professor at the University of North Georgia.

When Miller first started at Otwell, he said it was “not an easy school to teach at,” as one of two Title I schools in the district with a population of 40-45% of students who receive free and reduced lunch.

But in his time there, Miller said he has hired a team of teachers who try their best to put their kids first and take the time to ensure they succeed in the classroom.

“There was never a question about them coming in with the right attitude each and every day for those kids,” Miller said. “It’s not about a program, it’s not about championship this or championship that. We got STEM certified, which is great, but that’s not the end all be all of our school. It’s the people who walk the hallways each and every day and the folks who care for our kids and care for each other. That’s truly what is at the heart of Otwell.”

And he and his family have grown close to the people and community at Otwell over the years. With many of his kids leaving Mashburn and going through school at Otwell, he said they even have family traditions on campus like putting up a Christmas tree in the school during every Thanksgiving break so students could see it as they came back from the holiday.

Miller said the community and these traditions are what he will miss most at Otwell, but he is also excited to serve a new community at Mashburn where he hopes to start new traditions — alongside a new addition to the family.

Before applying for the new role at Mashburn, Miller said his oldest daughter, Sydney, and her husband, Chandler, broke some pretty important news to him: they were expecting a baby.

“So for the first time, I get to be a grandpa, and they live about a mile and a half from us,” Miller said. “So my granddaughter, Isla Josie, in five years will be a kindergartener at Mashburn.”

While Miller is thrilled to welcome his granddaughter into the world and, eventually, into Mashburn, he said he is simply excited to have the opportunity to serve at a school he has always loved.

“It’s such a great little community school like it’s always been,” Miller said. “When my kids went through that school, there were maybe 550-650 kids, and the people who go to that school love it. There is just something about being a Blue Bear.”

With the position officially beginning this summer, Miller said he has already met with the faculty and staff members at the school, talking with them to determine what the goals should be going into the next school year.

For now, he said he and the staff want to get back to the family and community feel Mashburn is known for following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m just super excited and ready to take this next step,” Miller said.