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Principal Spotlight: Kenney Wells, Berkmar Middle

The 1981 Parkview High graduate likes order, precision.

He returns your call as promised at precisely 10 a.m. His desk is fastidiously neat by day's end, crisply squared stacks purposely left for morning.

It's all part of Kenney Wells' mechanized way.

"You see piles, but they're arranged," Lilburn's Berkmar Middle School principal said. "I plan a lot, and I'm organized as far as I know the direction I want to go."

Wells says managing 1,040 kids and 117 staff members requires mechanization, as he learned while a production-driven distribution manager for 10 years before becoming an educator 17 years ago.

"I put the hot items in one (stack), then the tier-two stuff in folders here," he explained. "That helps me prepare to get things done. If my plate's clean, then I'll go (home)."

Wells arrives around 7 a.m. and routinely stays until 7 p.m., but wife April and young kids Lance, Kade and Jewel understand. To him, days at school seem fluid; to others, perhaps organized chaos.

"At times you're like an air traffic controller," said Wells, a 1981 Parkview High graduate. "I'm always aware of what's going on and willing to put the whistle in my mouth if I need to."

And during a power outage, he supervised the cafeteria by flashlight.

"You wear many hats, and every hat has a hat underneath it," Wells said, chuckling. "You have to group your hats into categories so you can see relationship between all the processes in the school. Everything impacts everything else."

One trick is delegating, though remaining constantly aware.

"If I'm walking next to him going somewhere," registrar Maria Salazar said, "it's incredible how he'll notice things. You don't think he will, but he does. He has radar."

Physical education teacher Dana Griffith welcomes Wells' empowerment, and his support when needed.

"(He) consistently sets high expectations for all stakeholders in our students’ education and holds individuals accountable for reaching those goals," she said.

Assistant principal Kelly Paurowski, who first worked with Wells at Norcross' Summerour Middle more than a decade ago, admires his style.

"He's very organized, but not OCD," she said. "He likes things to run on schedule, but does have a lot of flexibility. He likes there to be order, but in middle school, you don't always get that. This school runs like a machine."

But to be mechanized, Wells believes you best be so technologically as well. Though initially reluctant, he increasingly does more on his BlackBerry, iPhone and laptop.

"There are 10,000 apps for each device," Wells said, "but sometimes, I feel I'm still learning the first 10."

And as he did in two stints at Summerour and time at Snellville Middle and Hoschton's Osborne Middle, Wells has aspired in seven years at Berkmar Middle to have impact broader than just his.

"It's never been about making Kenney's mark; it's been what we can achieve together," he insisted. "I have people who make sure things at Berkmar Middle happen."

Truth known, however, Wells isn't organized everywhere. There's still that home basement in disarray.

"That's always my summer project," he said. "But when I get down there, I say 'It's not that bad.' It hasn't hit the top of my priority list yet."

This morning, though, as he flips on lights of his office, he's again Mr. Mechanized.

"I've learned along the way to look at the big picture to stay organized," he said. "I'm not anal retentive about things; it's just when I commit to something or someone, I'm going to be as precise as I can. We have to maximize every minute of the day."

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