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Austin reviews highlights and details hopes for future

By Kay S. Pedrotti An experience May 24 will always stand out as a career high point for departing Lamar County high school principal Derick Austin: ‘Being able to hand my sons their diplomas.’ Twins Lawrence and Lance Austin, successful students and athletes, will go to Georgia Tech on scholarships this fall. He says he is also very proud of daughter Precious Austin, a recent Georgia Southern University graduate, serving an internship in a Washington, D.C., hospital for children with disabilities. Of his years at Lamar County, Austin says, ‘The kids have been great. They’ve bought into everything we’ve encouraged them to do, trusted us, and they’re caring and compassionate people. The system has to keep this going, bringing future generations to their full potential as we worked so hard to do. Dr. (Bill) Truby’s Christian leadership has been a guiding factor in all this ‘“ he doesn’t just talk about it, he walks the walk.’ The Austins will remain in Barnesville where Stephanie Austin will teach fourth grade at the elementary school. Derick will commute to Putnam County, near his hometown of Milledgeville, to become assistant school superintendent. They will continue their membership at Towaliga County Line Baptist Church. GSU is principal Austin’s alma mater also; he attended on a full football scholarship. After earning a bachelor’s degree in special education, he went obtained master’s and specialist degrees in educational leadership. His first job was special education teacher for middle and elementary schools in Claxton. From there he went home to Milledgeville, where he taught, coached and supervised an after-school program at Baldwin County High School. Austin then had positions in Washington County as an elementary principal for two years and at the high school as CTAE director and assistant principal for four years. He describes his years here as successful because of ‘time, effort, blood, sweat, tears and prayer.’ One person he describes as ‘my drive’ is his mother Louise Austin, 67, of Milledgeville. She has fought pancreatic cancer for nearly three years. ’Every day with her is a blessing,’ he says. ‘She made 15 football games this season, even while taking chemotherapy, and made it to graduation too. She’s such an inspiration.’ Asked about humorous incidents here, he cited one time the senior prank backfired when a group of students gathered dozens of baby chicks and put them in the school courtyard. ’We of course got there early,’ says Austin, ‘so we put the chicks in a box and took them to a farm. I know the kids wondered why not a word was ever said.’ At one graduation, each senior put a penny in Austin’s palm as he shook hands while handing out diplomas. ’What I did was just hand the penny on to the next student,’ he adds. No one seemed to be aware of the penny relay; Austin said he just smiled, watching the recipients juggle pennies. Eventually, the family will move to their house at Lake Sinclair. Meanwhile, Austin says, he will be ‘simplifying my life, being able to follow the boys around as they play football, looking deep to find God’s plan for me.’ He will be pulling for the new principal and superintendent as they weather the storm of changes to continue the progress. ‘It has been like I’ve seen a baby birthed and now I have to trust that I’ll see it grow, develop and be nourished by others,’ he said. ‘I love this community and I pray it’ll continue to produce the kind of students, faculty and leaders I’ve been privileged to work with.’

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