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It was like coming home

Coordinator Kelly McCollough, shown with Kelli Bowlan, department secretary, is no stranger to the system. Stephanie Nelson/Star-News

New Covington County Schools Special Education Coordinator Kelly McCollough is no stranger to the county or the system she now serves.

McCollough, a 34-year-old Troy University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in special education and a master’s in education administration, grew up the daughter of a special education teacher. An Opp High School graduate, McCollough’s first teaching job was at Straughn Elementary School, where she spent nine years as a special ed teacher. From there, she went to Opp Middle School, where she spent three years. But when it was announced former special education coordinator Billie Thompson was retiring, McCollough said she thought she’d apply “just to see.”

“I never thought, in a million years, that I’d get hired,” McCollough said. “I was absolutely amazed and thrilled when I was given the opportunity.”

She said she always wanted to do be in special education.

“But when I graduated from high school, I really thought that I wanted to work with pediatric oncology patients, so I went to Sanford for my first year of college,” she said. “It was horrible. I stayed sick – I had chicken pox, you name it – and I really felt like it wasn’t where God wanted me to be.”

So, she came home and decided to head off to Troy. It was a decision she has never regretted.

“It was like things lined up for me,” she said. “And when I made my way here as special education coordinator, it was like coming home.”

Now, as a system-wide coordinator, she said she has the opportunity to bring classroom knowledge into the administrative process.

“I know where a teacher is coming from, so I think that will help me as an administrator,” she said. “I can take some of that load off of them, so they can teach.

“On the flipside, I know that as an administrator there are a lot of decisions to be made,” she said. “As a teacher, it’s easy to say, if I was in charge I’d do this. As an administrator, you can see all the underlining things that you have to take into consideration when making a decision.”

Currently, the county school system services approximately 500 special education students who receive a variety of services such as specialized instruction, counseling, vision and hearing impaired services, gifted education services and therapies such as speech, occupational and physical.

McCollogh said she hopes to one day implement a systemwide math comprehension program that would compliment the reading program already in place.

McCollough and her husband, Lance, have a 7-year-old son, Lain. The family lives in Opp.