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Academy of Richmond County names first female principal

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Malinda Cobb wasn’t trying to make history when she applied to be principal of the Academy of Richmond County this summer.

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Malinda Cobb was selected last week to replace Tim Spivey as the principal of Academy of Richmond County.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Malinda Cobb was selected last week to replace Tim Spivey as the principal of Academy of Richmond County.

She wasn’t even aware she was about to.

“I told people I was applying to be principal there, and I had one person say, ‘Oh, OK, right, good luck with that,’ ” said Cobb, referring to the school’s unbroken record of white, male principals.

It wasn’t until her interview that she learned Richmond Academy hasn’t had a woman behind the principal’s desk in its 229-year history.

Until now.

Cobb, 38, has become the first female principal at the oldest public school in the South and one of the oldest in the nation.

Augusta’s principals are overwhelmingly female today. Of Richmond County’s 55 schools, 40 have female principals, according to Chief Human Resource Officer Norman Hill.

Founded as an all-boys school in 1783, Richmond Academy continued an all-male tradition through the years. It became a military academy during the Civil War and a public high school later.

Girls were first allowed to attend Richmond Academy in 1950, and the school integrated in the 1960s.

“For a long time, it’s been a boys club to a degree at ARC,” said the school’s International Baccalaureate dean, Charlie Tutor. “But everyone is going to embrace Mrs. Cobb. Her heart is in the right place.”

Catherine Luckey, a 1964 Richmond Academy graduate who taught at the school for 20 years, said male principals were an understood tradition and not necessarily seen as negative.

Most military schools have a male-dominated history, and Richmond Academy likes to hold on to its roots, she said.

“You didn’t even think about it,” Luckey said. “When principals changed, you automatically thought about who the next man would be.”

“To break that barrier,” she said, Cobb “has to be a very special female.”

Cobb was raised in Saluda, S.C., and grew up knowing she’d be a lifelong educator. She was the teacher’s assistant in second grade and a teacher cadet in high school, and she comes from a family of school bus drivers, school secretaries and substitute teachers.

After college, Cobb worked as an English teacher for 10 years before moving into administration. She was an assistant principal at North Harlem Ele­men­tary School and most recently principal at Goshen Elementary.

“After working in the classroom, I wanted to make a difference on a larger scale,” Cobb said. “I had a lot of ideas, and I want to support teachers how I always wanted to be supported.”

Cobb believes in communication among principals, teachers and students. At Goshen Elementary, Cobb learned the names of every one of her 400 students.

She hopes to do the same at Richmond Academy and said she wants to make students feel that they belong.

As far as her milestone, Cobb is modest. She said there are many talented female principals in Richmond County and that a good principal has nothing to do with gender.

“I believe if you do good work, and you’re honest and fair, that spreads,” she said. “That has given me the opportunity for this job. I guess that’s why I was naive enough to not even realize I was the first female principal at ARC.”

Of the 83,903 U.S. public school principals in 2000, 43 percent were women, according to a 2003 report by global policy think-tank RAND Corp.

Arnold Danzig, a professor in the Arizona State Univer­sity School of Public Affairs, said the number of male and female principals are about equal today. Statistics in the classroom have more disparity, with about 75 percent of public school teachers being female, Danzig said.

The gender disparity grows more at the superintendent level. According to a 2010 study by the American Asso­cia­tion of School Admin­is­tra­tors, 24 percent of superintendents surveyed were women, up from 13 percent in 2000.

The female superintendents were twice as likely as men to have 20 or more years of teaching experience before moving into administration.

Luckey said she is happy to see Richmond Academy go along with the move toward more women in administrative roles. She said there is always room for improvement in Augusta.

“I think the next step would be to have a female superintendent,” Luckey said.


Job: Principal of Academy of Richmond County

Age: 38

Born: Saluda, S.C.

Education: Newberry College, undergraduate; Georgia State University, master’s degree; Augusta State University, education specialist.

Family: Husband, Michael; 1-year-old son, Cooper

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teacher09 07/27/12 - 06:20 pm

Malinda is an amazing young woman! She was my mentor at TWJosey where she was Teacher of the Year and then later became Teacher of the Year for Richmond County. She has accomplished so much to be so young. I am sure that all of the students, teachers, and principals at TWJosey can attest to what a great teacher and person she is. She will be great because she doesn't know what the word failure means. I wish only the best of luck to this lady and role model for so many. I hope that she will receive all the support she needs to make ARC one of the best schools in Richmond County and beyond. Good luck Malinda!

ispyon 07/27/12 - 07:29 pm
first female to make history

Congrats to Malinda. I too made history in 1986 at ARC as first female to make the boys golf team. I hope someone is keeping track of some good ARC history. Go Malinda!

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 07/27/12 - 08:29 pm
A little late

I'm thinking that this shuffling of principals around at the last minute can be a bit disrupting for the educational process.

Truth Matters
Truth Matters 07/27/12 - 10:12 pm
New principal

Not surprised by this appointment. This principal has principles. Teachers in her school feel supported and that they matter. Quite a unique dynamic in today's test-driven environment.


ARC fan
ARC fan 07/27/12 - 11:44 pm
Very impressive young lady -

Very impressive young lady - will do great things at ARC.
I encourage all alumni to give her the support she will need to turn ARC around - it can be done.

CryoCyberTronics 07/28/12 - 10:26 am
Hello Martha Burke

You can now have your Lolliepop. Now can the RCBE make the Tubman School building a middle school again? It's been a long time from my days at Tubman Jr. High School where Dr.Tracy & Mr. M, Barns led the school. Only problem was the less than perfect teachers at the school.

CryoCyberTronics 07/28/12 - 11:02 am
Tubman The Former School For Girls

Yeah and Yeap You're right we had three School Principals than no need for school Police! Good Job Well Done; Dr. Tracy, Mr. M. Barns, & Mr. Willis! Also nice to know the Tubman school building is another 100 year old building still standing and still in use today. They don't build them like they use to!

avidreader 07/28/12 - 11:06 am
The Right Choice!

The BOE got this one right. Malinda Cobb has worked hard to acheive her goals, and she deserves the support of the Augusta community. She taught a summer seminar called "Reading in the Dark" and I attended both sesssions. We learned how to teach film as literature. I still use this techinque in my classroom. Malinda believes that we, as teachers, must embrace technology and blend it in with traditional curriculum.

Also, she actually has a vocabulary worth mentioning. She is well-educated, bright, and articulate. Tim Spivey will be very proud of her.

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 07/30/12 - 04:52 am

Ms. Cobb.

Eleanaaa 07/30/12 - 12:29 pm
Hey Ms.Cobb , It's Eleana

Hey Ms.Cobb , It's Eleana from Goshen Elementary , but now going to PHM . What about Goshen Elementary , who's going to be the principal there ?:O

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