New principals selected for next school year
Posted on 02/25/2020
Photo of the three new principals selectedDr. Ethan Hildreth, a former superintendent of Henry County Schools in Georgia, will lead the new East Hamilton Middle School when it opens this fall. Hildreth retired as superintendent in Henry County in 2014. After Henry County, he was a leadership consultant until 2016 for the Griffin Regional Service Agency that works with school districts in the Griffin area. For the last three years, he has worked with Nord Anglia Education.

Hildreth worked for Henry County Schools for 23 years, also serving as an assistant superintendent, principal, assistant principal, and teacher. He was a principal, assistant principal, and teacher at Eagle’s Landing High School and an assistant principal at Pate’s Creek Elementary School.

“I look forward to continuing the proud Hurricane tradition of East Hamilton in what will be one of the top school facilities in the area for middle school students,” said Hildreth. “The East Hamilton Middle faculty, students, and community will forge a great team that will prepare children for future success in high school and beyond graduation.”

Hildreth earned his bachelor's degree from the United States Air Force Academy, his master's degree from the University of Tennessee, and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Georgia State University.

East Hamilton Middle School will be a 175,000 square foot facility in the Missionary Ridge Learning Community and is a major project in the $125 million building plan approved by the Hamilton County Board of Education in October 2017. The new elementary school in the Harrison community is also part of the plan and will also open in the fall. The Hamilton County Commission approved funding of East Hamilton Middle and other district building projects to address school facility needs in 2017. The capacity of the new school will hold 1,200 students so that the building can accommodate current students and the growth expected in the East Hamilton community. The new school will feature the latest learning technology, labs, group learning areas, and STEM labs and will also have athletic fields for football, soccer, softball, and baseball. East Hamilton Middle will be the new home to sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students in the East Hamilton area when the school opens in August. Moving the middle school grades from the current East Hamilton Middle/High facility will allow for more growth opportunities at what will become East Hamilton High School.

LaFrederick M. Thirkill will be the new principal at Washington Alternative School. Thirkill has served as principal at Orchard Knob Elementary for the past nine years. He began his career in Hamilton County in 1998 as a teacher and has also been an assistant principal.

As a principal, Thirkill received multiple administration awards. The Hamilton County P.T.A. recognized him as the Elementary Principal of the Year in 2013. The same year, the Hamilton County Education Association also recognized him as their Distinguished Administrator. In 2014, he received the East Tennessee Distinguished Administrator Award from the Tennessee Education Association.

In 2007, Thirkill was named an assistant principal trainee at Apison Elementary and then served in that position for three years. Thirkill began his career as an elementary music teacher and spent nine years in the classroom. He organized and served as the first chair of the Elementary Music Teachers Group. Thirkill also became the first teacher to earn National Board Certification in Hamilton County Schools while working in the district. He also served in several roles with the Hamilton County Education Association to support teachers and develop the Memorandum of Agreement with Hamilton County Schools. Locally, Thirkill has received honors for his work as an activist, historian, and educator.

Thirkill is passionate about and dedicated to the work of education. “I strongly believe that every child deserves the right to access the knowledge and skills that will prepare them for college and the workforce,” said Thirkill. “I am eager to begin the work to provide an alternative path to education success for students who struggle in the traditional classroom setting.”

He earned his Bachelor’s in Music Education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and both his Master’s and Education Specialist in Instructional Leadership and Supervision degrees from Tennessee Technological University.

Replacing Thirkill at Orchard Knob Elementary will be Vonetta Maston, current principal of Hillcrest Elementary. Hillcrest will close with the opening of the new elementary school in the Harrison community in the fall.

Maston was named the principal at Hillcrest Elementary in 2015 and served the previous five years as an assistant principal at the school. Maston was instrumental in providing opportunities for students in reading, math, and technology outside the regular school hours while an administrator at Hillcrest. She also engaged teachers in professional development to support student achievement and growth by continuing the implementation of half-day planning for grade levels every three weeks. She also instituted the RESET program, designed to provide behavior supports for the students of Hillcrest. Maston recognized early in her career that to improve achievement, you have to support the whole child. Maston was recognized as an outstanding principal by Hillcrest’s parents in 2016.

Maston is a native of Chattanooga and a graduate of Brainerd High School. She has over 23 years of education experience and began her career as a math teacher at Orchard Knob Middle School in 1997. Fresh out of college, Maston connected with the students by coaching basketball, volleyball, and track.
Maston joined the Hardy Elementary team in 2001, where she taught fourth-grade math. While at Hardy, the Community Education Alliance recognized her as an incentive recipient and a high performing teacher in a high priority school.
“I plan to use my strengths as an instructional and servant leader, and my experience and ability to motivate students academically at Orchard Knob,” said Maston. “I intend to place a priority on establishing a strong connection with parents, staff, and the Orchard Knob community as we work together as a school team.”

Maston holds a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education from Knoxville College. She earned her Master’s in Educational Leadership from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. She also graduated from the Public Education Foundation’s Leadership Fellows Cohort 6 and was selected into Principal Leadership Academy in 2015.