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Posted by on September 24, 2012.

Sutton Middle principal tackling new challenges

Sutton Middle School Principal Audrey Sofianos says her students inspire her.

Sutton Middle School Principal Audrey Sofianos beamed while talking about her students.

She said they never cease to amaze her.

“This particular age group, really, in middle school they are starting to form their own opinions and ideas and express them,” Sofianos said. “They’re taking so much in. … Middle school is where it really starts to happen.”

Something big is about to happen at Sutton.

The Sutton Middle School community will soon permanently change addresses, a move that makes some parents nervous, according to the Parent Teacher Association members.

PTA member B.J. Young said members are working to remind parents nothing about Sutton will change besides the location.

“What we’re trying to do at this point is reassure people that our address is simply going to change,” Young said. “There’s no need to bail simply because we’re changing buildings.”

Sofianos will be the person who keeps everyone moving together, Young said. The principal said she’s toured the school’s new address, the current site of North Atlanta High on Northside Drive, several times.

Like middle school, the move from the school’s current campus near Chastain Park will be a period of adjustment. It will start next year, but for a time the schools will share athletics facilities while crews finish up North Atlanta’s new campus on Northside Parkway.

“I feel like we’ve done some very good planning, but it really will step up this year,” Sofianos said.

Sofianos pointed to the cluster of trailers helping alleviate overcrowding at the school. She smiled and said she has dubbed it Sutton’s “Cougar Village,” a reference to the school mascot. The new campus should give students more breathing room. Eventually the current Sutton site will become a sixth-grade academy, a campus solely for sixth-grade students.

“The whole building will be tailored for that learner,” Sofianos said. “We’re very excited about that.”

Sofianos tries to know each of her students by name. She keeps a yearbook at her desk in case a parent calls, which happens frequently. She’s a straight-talking Midwesterner who greets students who walk through her doors with a nurturing smile.

She leaves an impression. During a recent visit to North Atlanta High for a community meeting, one of the band members rushed up to her and threw his arms around her. She said his name is Ricky. Sofianos has an unshakable faith that her students will one day run the world and the world will be in good hands.

“The kids just inspire me because they do so much more than I even expect, and it’s just such an encouraging field to be in, to see the youth and what they’re doing now and then thinking about the future, what are these kids going to do as they continue through school,” Sofianos said.

Sofianos has been a principal at Sutton since 2007. She moved to Atlanta after serving as principal at Skiles Test Elementary in Indianapolis.

She received her degree in education from Indiana University Bloomington and said she knew she wanted to work with children since she was a baby-sitter in high school. When she’s having a rough day, she walks the halls and talks with her students.

“They amaze me, just their ideas, their thoughts, their capabilities, their positive attitudes,” she said.

School leaders have worked on the transition plan for two years, Sofianos said. When Sutton opens at its new location, E. Rivers Elementary will begin classes at the current Sutton campus, and will attend the school for 18 months while Atlanta Public Schools rebuilds it.

The tours of the schools continue. The principals swap ideas. Everyone wonders if it will go exactly as planned.

“Really, what you have are a lot of parents who are just new to Sutton,” PTA co-president Patricia Israel said. “The bulk of our questions primarily stem from new sixth-grade parents, and it’s a big transition going from elementary to middle school. She’s really trying to make those parents feel more knowledgeable about everything that middle school is all about.”

Sofianos said students should take a moment during this upcoming year to appreciate the middle school experience. It’s a good one, she said.

“Enjoy the middle school time …,” Sofianos said. “It is a special time where you will learn a lot and make life-long friends.”

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