Tamra Watts knows she’s stepping into a great situation.
“I tell everybody I’ve died and gone to heaven,” she explains. “The people here are wonderful (and) the students are just fabulous.”
Sitting in the principal’s office – her new office – at Tucker High School, Watts isn’t shy about discussing the great strides made under her predecessor James Jackson.
On the athletics department: “We are a powerhouse.” Academically: “There’s some very, very talented students here.” On her faculty: “They are just out of the box, but they’re in the box enough to cultivate the (students’) needs.”
Watts is a veteran educator who comes to Tucker from her alma mater Towers High School in Decatur. When she was tapped for the job back in May, Watts had to pull double duty.
“The first four weeks I did half the day here and half the day at Towers,” she recounts. “I had a lot of meetings with department heads (and) program heads…to understand the culture and climate for their departments.”
At Tucker, she takes over a school that has seen its graduation rate skyrocket over the past several years, jumping to better than 90 percent in 2016. She says she’s working with educators in Tucker’s STEM, IB and AP programs to ensure the academic growth continues. Moreover, Watts says she’s doing some learning herself.
“I’m doing a lot of observing, a lot of watching and a lot of listening right now,” she explains, adding “[I] have learned a lot.”
One key constituency Watts wants to involve is the parents. While she notes that parental involvement is key in any educational setting, it can be a challenge.
“The administrative team and I are working with the calendars so that we can meet all the different work schedules and do things at different times of the day for different periods of time in different locations so that we can meet as many parents where they are,” Watts explains.
Those who know Watts say she is well-equipped to succeed at Tucker.
“We faced many challenges together,” says City Councilmember Anne Lerner, who worked with Watts a decade ago when they both were teachers at Stone Mountain Middle School. “Tamra always put the needs of the students first and let nothing get in the way of their progress and success.”
With the new school year just days away, Watts shows no signs of uncertainty. She says hard work put in by administrators and staff over the summer will pay dividends immediately.
“The work that we did in that short period of time has us already ready for school.”
You can watch the entire interview with Principal Watts on the City of Tucker YouTube channel.