Former SV principal ready to lead Open Door School

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2005

It is said that when one door closes, another one opens. And it would seem principals Jeff Saunders and Tom Bartee have been sharing the same door.

The Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities announced Wednesday that Tom Bartee, for seven years the principal of Symmes Valley High School, has accepted he position of principal at Open Door School.

Ironically,Bartee will be replacing former principal Jeff Saunders, who in June became Symmes Valley High School principal, a job left open when the school board decided not to renew Bartee's contract.

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Confused? It's all going according to plan, Bartee joked.

"Jeff and I were out to dinner, and we decided we'd been both been doing our jobs so long, that we'd just switch for a while and see how that worked," Bartee said with a laugh.

All joking aside, Bartee, an educator for 27 years, said he's eager to begin work with the students of Open Door, all of who have some sort of physical or mental disabilities.

"I have some background in special education, but I've never headed up a school as Open Door is for special needs students," Bartee said. "So it's going to be both challenging and exciting."

Paul Mollett, superintendent of Lawrence County MR/DD, said he was looking for something more than years of experience when he hired his new principal.

"I was looking for someone who demonstrated a lot of compassion for individuals that are challenged," Mollett said.

"I believe Tom Bartee is in the corner of the underdog, and sometimes when you have special challenges as our kids do, you end up being in that position of having more obstacles than anybody should have."

"So, having somebody in a leadership position like the principal of the Open Door School, it's nice to know you have someone willing to fight for the underdog."

Just this month, Bartee was showing Saunders around his old stomping grounds, now Bartee is the one who has to learn new ropes. It's a challenge, however, that Bartee believes he's up to.

"I'm looking forward to it already," Bartee said.

"I'm thinking this is something where I'm going to come home and bring a lot of the kids home with me in my heart or in my mind and think about what we can do to make their lives better."

Bartee will begin trying to improve the lives of Open Door students when he takes over the principal's office on Aug. 2.