LAFAYETTE, GA (WRCB)-  After 32 years in public education, Superintendent of Walker County Schools Melissa Mathis has announced her intention to retire on December 1.  Following discussion with the Board of Education Monday night, Mathis informed principals, coordinators and directors of her decision at a joint meeting on Tuesday.

Mathis first joined the central office staff as Director of Curriculum and Instruction and has since served as superintendent for the past six years.  During her tenure, she says Walker County Schools has increased the graduation rate over 20%.

"It is with mixed emotions and great deliberation that I made the decision to retire at this time.  I feel privileged to have worked with this Board and this staff serving the students in Walker County and am grateful to be able to return, in a part-time capacity, in 2012 to continue this essential work," said Mathis.

The Board is expected to appoint current Director of Personnel Craig Davoulas as Interim Superintendent to complete the 2011-2012 school year.  Davoulas came to Walker County in 1992 as a teacher at Chattanooga Valley Elementary.  He later served as a curriculum specialist and principal before becoming Director of Personnel for the district.  Currently the school system is the county's largest employer with nearly 1,400 full-time and part-time employees.

Dr. Eddy Combs, current Title I Coordinator, will become Director of Personnel, replacing Davoulas.  Dr. Combs has also served as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, personnel director and interim superintendent for Walker County Schools.

"Ms. Mathis has set a very high bar for educators everywhere.  The leadership that she has displayed both in the classroom and in administration has truly been unmatched.  Her vision for the students of Walker County has been both refreshing and inspirational," said Board Chairperson Phyllis Hunter.   "The direction of this vision will continue with leaders that she has helped to mentor and train," Hunter concluded.

Mathis is a member of the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the Georgia School Boards Association, the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Northwest Georgia Regional Educational Services Board of Control.  She also serves on the Walker County Board of Health and the Walker County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

She is the recipient of the LaFayette Young Career Woman Award from the Business and Professional Woman's Club and has been named both the Walker County School District Distinguished Teacher of the Year and the Walker County Retired Educators' Educator of the Year.  She received the Martha Bell Williams Award for Excellence in Elementary Education and was appointed by the Governor to the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission.

Mathis regularly calls herself an elementary teacher at heart and remembers fondly her years at both North LaFayette and Naomi.  In her new position, she plans to spend time in classrooms and schools mentoring teachers and administrators for the future of Walker County.