By Alicia Couch Payne
I had the chance to sit down with the new superintendent of the Buford City School System, Dr. Robert Downs and his wife Melissa to find out more about them during the boys’ basketball game at the Buford Arena. The Downs have been making their rounds already trying to get to know members of the community at various functions even before he is set to take up the superintendent’s reins on February 25th.
Dr. Downs and his wife Melissa were born and raised in Solon, OH just outside of Cleveland. At the age of 16, his father had the opportunity to open the Glidden paint plant in Oakwood, GA and relocated the family to Chestnut Mountain. He attended Johnson High School during his junior and senior years and went on to attend the University of Georgia. He obtained his degrees at Georgia, West Georgia, and Lincoln Memorial University. Melissa attended Toledo but they stayed in touch throughout the years. After college, his wife landed a job at John Hopkins hospital and they moved to Baltimore, MD. Dr. Downs and Melissa have two children, Kaitlyn, 27 and Andrew, 25.
His first teaching job was in Baltimore County, MD where he stayed for four years. After their son was born, they decided to move to Georgia to be closer to his parents. Dr. Downs landed a job at Sprayberry High School in Cobb County where he taught history and coached girls soccer and volleyball. Since then he has been assistant principal at Barber Middle School, Sprayberry and Wheeler High Schools, principal at Lost Mountain Middle School and Pope High School, and most recently as assistant superintendent at Cobb County School System.
Some of his best times during his professional career were as a high school principal and he missed that small family oriented feeling. He saw Buford’s tight-knit, family-oriented community and that appealed to him as did Buford’s high level of academics, athletics and performing arts. So when he learned of the vacancy at Buford, he decided to apply for the job of Superintendent.
During the course of this school year, the community of Buford has undergone a good deal of stress. To counter the stress, the Buford School Board knew it would need to find someone that possessed a calm demeanor to steer the school system. Not only does Dr. Downs have to overcome the shadow cast by the behavior of his predecessor, Dr. Hamby but he also has to oversee the major undertaking of moving virtually every teacher in the school system around when the new high school opens.
Dr. Downs says his immediate goals at Buford are to get to know the employees of the school system, members of the community, and members of the local religious community. He intends to hold sessions in which he wants to hear from staff on what works and what doesn’t. Dr. Downs says in those sessions he plans on learning the traditions that Buford holds dear and to uphold those traditions such as the homecoming parade.
An openness emanates from the new superintendent, as does warmth and kindness that is much needed. There is confidence there but not cockiness or ego. I enjoyed my time spent getting to know Dr. Downs and his wife Melissa. They are very approachable and even encourage people to come up and meet them. After my interactions with Dr. Downs and speaking to the Board members and staff who have been in contact with him, I feel really positive about the Board’s decision in hiring Dr. Robert Downs as Buford’s new Superintendent. He has a huge job ahead of him and no doubt our community will show him the support and acceptance that our tight-knit Buford family is known for. Welcome to the family Dr. Downs!