DULUTH — As J.W. Mozley directed bus traffic outside Coleman Middle School, the school’s namesake assessed the situation in the bus lane and walked over with a message.
“I told him he passed his first big test,” said Brooks Coleman, referring to Mozley, the principal. “Now get them home.”
Armed with full shopping bags of school supplies and backpacks, students arrived for the first time on Monday on the first day of school for the 2016-17 year in Gwinnett County Public Schools. Coleman Middle, which will have a focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math, is in the renovated building of the old Duluth Middle, where Mozley was a student in the 1990s.
With a radio in hand, Mozley noted history was made at about 8:50 a.m. when “Bus 6” arrived with the first group of students.
Mozley admitted he nearly cried when he stepped on that bus because all the preparation school officials have made came together and was real.
Also in the bus lane was Peggy Goodman, an assistant superintendent, who said the day was special because she remembers her children attending Duluth Middle with Mozley.
Once the students arrived, they assembled in the gym for a pep rally-like atmosphere to learn more about Coleman and the school’s culture. Coleman drew laughter and cheers from the crowd when he did a rendition of the ABC song and shimmied his hips.
He encouraged the students to have a commitment to the school, be proud of it and learn to communicate by shaking hands and looking each other in the eye.
Coleman shared history about the school, and property that has housed four schools since the 1800s, how he taught Mozley’s mother there, and how he serves as chairman of the State House Education Committee.
“The kids are energized, they were engaged,” Mozley said after the assembly. “They were just excited to be at this new place, hear from Brooks. Everyone is glad to be here. … Everything we planned has come to reality.”