Originally created 08/05/99

New principals will greet Aiken students



AIKEN -- The start of a new year always brings nervous anticipation for schoolchildren. But this year, the tables are turned.

The pressure is on for first-time principals in Aiken County.

Peggy Trivelas has moved from the district office to the schoolhouse, a familiar homecoming to the 17-year educator, who spent most of those years in classrooms. Before being named principal of East Aiken Elementary in early summer, she served as special education director for Aiken County, a position she held for nearly two years.

But when pupils return to the East Aiken campus Aug. 19 -- the day classes resume -- they will be greeted at the entrance by Mrs. Trivelas, not Bessie Boyette, who retired June 30. She served as principal for three years.

Mrs. Trivelas' new assignment is a first for her, but school officials who recommended her say she is more than qualified for the demanding position. Here's why:

From 1995 to 1997 Mrs. Trivelas was assistant principal of North Aiken Elementary/Pinecrest Annex. While there, she helped restructure the reading program and started an early literacy program.

From 1994 to 1995 she was assistant principal of Chukker Creek Elementary, where she revamped policies and procedures and created a weekly in-house newsletter.

From 1990 to 1994, she taught at Millbrook Elementary and Oakwood Windsor Elementary. Before that, she taught first and third grades in Berkley County. She was also active in special education programs there.

James Russell Gunter is another newcomer to the role of principal. Valley-area parents know Mr. Gunter as assistant principal of Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School, a job he held for a year. School officials say Mr. Gunter is a perfect fit for the principal's job because he knows the school system well.

Nearly 20 years ago, he graduated from Leavelle McCampbell High School with honors. Mr. Gunter replaces Byron Bowers, who held the post a year. Here is a snapshot of Mr. Gunter's 14-year career:

From 1990 to 1998, he taught band at L-B-C Middle, and before that he directed the Silver Bluff High School band, a job he held for two years.

From 1985 to 1988, Mr. Gunter taught at Merriwether Elementary School, and from 1984 to 1985 he taught at W.E. Parker Elementary. Both schools are in Edgefield County.

Rebecca Koelker has spent most of her career in the classroom, but this year, she too, is moving into administration. She was recently appointed principal of Greendale Elementary, replacing administrative veteran Teresa Pope.

Ms. Koelker's most recent job was assistant principal of Redcliffe Elementary School, a position she held for three years. Here's a summary of her career:

From 1993 to 1997, she taught at Redcliffe Elementary after returning to the Aiken County school district from Knightsville Elementary School in Summerville.

From 1988 to 1990, she taught at Pelion Elementary in Lexington County, and from there returned to teach at Oakwood Windsor Elementary in 1980 and 1981.

Her first teaching job was at Sloan School, a private school in Columbia, where she spent a year.

Chasiti Kirkland covers education issues for The Augusta Chronicle. She can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.