Bay Elementary starts school year with new principal

DEBORAH WHEELER 654-8443 | @WaltonSunDeb dwheeler@waltonsun.com
Meredith Spence

Bay Elementary starts a new school year with new principal, and her name is Meredith Spence.

Many at the school already knew Spence as she comes to Bay from Butler Elementary, where she was assistant principal.

This is Spence's first time as a school principal.

She has worked for more than 20 years in the Walton County education system. She taught English and middle-school youth leadership.

Spence finished high school in Montgomery but she says she has been a part of South Walton since 1983 as she came here all through college and moved here full time in 2003.

She is married to Ben Spence and they have two children: Josie, who graduated from South Walton High School in 2005, and Annie, who is a senior at Seacoast Collegiate High. Annie attended Bay for kindergarten when it was an early childhood center, then Butler for first through fifth grades, Seaside Neighborhood School, and now Seacoast.

Spence replaces former Bay principal Dianne Hicks.

Hicks was in the news last year while principal as the State PTA shut down the Parent Teacher Association at Bay over unresolved and ongoing disagreements between Hicks and the PTA.

Spence said she is excited to be at Bay and her goal is to reestablish a strong parent group of Bay boosters at the school and bring a sense of community to Bay.

"Enrollment is up to 367 from 323 last year and we have added two new portables to accommodate," she said.

Another exciting new thing at Bay is that South Walton High School drama teacher Don Goodrum will be teaching the basics of drama at Bay for half a day to third and fourth graders during first and second periods.

"We want to build a drama program here with music and art, and increase arts at the school," said Spence.

Goodrum said he will start by getting to know the kids and what they are capable of, and introduce them to drama through drama games, how to learn lines, characterization and the difference between that and performing.

Gooodrum has taught at SWHS since 2007, and he said this opportunity will not interfere with his teaching there.