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Dr. Darrell Stephens - Principal

I believe in the success of all children and that success starts with the teacher. The impact of teachers on students’ learning is well documented. What takes place behind the closed door of the classroom really does matter, and thus it is my belief, and research supports, that teachers are the single most important factor connected to students’ achievement. It is my philosophy that as the leading learner in the school, that hiring quality-expert-educators in every classroom, is the second most important responsibility that I have, next to ensuring a safe and orderly working environment. Also, it is my belief that teachers will use high-quality instruction that essential to the success of all students. For instance, the nine high yielding strategies that have been identified in Marzano’s book, Classroom Instruction That Works, (2nd ed.) have proven to be effective in increasing students’ academic achievement. It is my belief that students, who come to school without the necessary experiences and/or vocabulary to be considered “prepared” for school, will have challenges and difficulty in “making the grade.” It is imperative that we, as teachers, take steps to build not only challenged students but all students’, background knowledge. The results of the research done by Marzano on Building Background Knowledge (BBK) also identifies teaching techniques to assist with vocabulary instruction, and closing of achievement gaps, ensuring students understand “academic vocabulary” utilizing the “Six Step Process” for Direct Vocabulary Instruction. I find this research to be essential and it aligns with my belief about what is good for kids. Also, we cannot negate the impact 21st Century Skills have on student achievement. It is my philosophy that technology will give teachers and school leaders the tools to prepare our students for their futures by developing opportunities for students to create and share knowledge using varied technological resources. The seamless integration of technology into classroom lessons is an important instructional technique that prepares students to tackle life beyond high school. 

Last, I understand that “technology will never replace great teachers but technology in the hands of a great teacher can be transformational (Couros, 2016).” However, it still remains a fact that “…we can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose schooling is of interest to us.  We already know more than we need to do that. Whether or not we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far (Edmonds, 1978).”

Principal's Welcome Back & Greeting Letter
Dr. Darrell Stephens' Full Resume


Riki Gilliam - Assistant Principal

I am proud to be entering my 19th school year in education and honored to be joining the dynamic Paul D. West family.  My name is Riki Gilliam, and my educational journey began at Clark Atlanta University where I majored in History Education.  While at CAU, I developed a love of history and recognized the importance of learning from the events of the past. After seven great years at Frederick Douglass High School,  I transitioned to Carver School of Technology to teach 9th and 12th grade social studies.

After another seven extraordinary years in the classroom at Carver, I embarked on a new page in my career as an administrator with Fulton County Schools at Woodland Middle school. As an administrator, I rely heavily on my experiences in the classroom when supporting teachers and interacting with the community. I like to think that I will always have the heart of a teacher.

My philosophy of education is deeply rooted in the belief that students are entitled to an opportunity to reach their fullest potential.  It is the duty of the school to provide a safe environment in which students can unlock their true potential, fuel their passions and, explore all the world has to offer.  We, as educators, have the daunting task of fostering the next generation and motivating every child we interact with daily.  This is no easy feat, but I truly believe that each one of us has been placed in our student’s lives for a reason, and we must not take that responsibility for granted. 

early_pic.JPGMari H. Early - Assistant Principal

Mrs. Mari H. Early, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska, is in her 20th year of service to public education. Upon receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Criminal Justice from James Madison University, Mrs. Early attended the University of West Georgia, receiving her Teaching Certification in Elementary Education. She attended Kennesaw State University, where she received her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. Mrs. Early is also a trained Teacher Support Specialist and is devoted to the development of her staff for the advancement of student learning.

Mrs. Early began her professional career as a teacher in Fairfax, Virginia.  The remainder of her career has been in Fulton County, where she taught at Barnwell Elementary School, Parklane Elementary, Hamilton E Holmes Elementary, and Evoline C. West Elementary.  As a teacher, Mrs. Early served in many leadership roles and was named Teacher of the Year twice, at Hamilton E. Holmes (2004-2005) and at Evoline C. West Elementary (2007-2008). 

An experienced, data driven, and collaborative leader with turn-around school success, Mrs. Early’s reputation for high standards in education precedes her. As an Assistant Principal at Evoline C. West Elementary School, Mrs. Early was instrumental in the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions & Supports.  Mrs. Early supported the school as it made AYP each year and increased in all subject areas on the State Assessment.

During her tenure as principal of Harriet Tubman Elementary, student achievement at her school improved by double-digits, despite challenges faced by high percentages of economically disadvantaged enrollment, high mobility rates and significant staff changes. Mrs. Early served briefly as the principal of Mt. Olive Elementary before opening the new College Park Elementary School.  Her focus as principal has consistently been on preparing students for college or the career path of their choice by looking at data and setting goals, project-based learning, cross-curricular integration, writing and integration of technology in a personalized learning framework.   

Mrs. Early is a member of numerous professional and civic organizations, including the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She is an active participant in civic organizations within the East Point and College Park communities, a member of Ben Hill United Methodist Church and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Mrs. Early is married to her college sweetheart, Kevin Early, Esq. and they have two wonderful children, Malik (20) and Mike (17).

Indeed, Mrs. Early is a visionary leader and advocate who wants the best for this generation of children.  She has a wealth of knowledge on instituting a culture of respect, rigor and results that is shared amongst all school stakeholders.  She is pleased to join the team at Paul D. West Middle School.

Shatala Cain - Administrative Assistant/AVID Coordinator

Teaching Philosophy
Every child can learn when given the opportunity to practice having a growth mindset, receiving the resources to meet them where they are, combined with a teacher who truly cares.


Leadership Philosophy
Great leaders must be willing to “lead by example” and be a model of what they wish to see. A leader is constantly evolving and building relationships with those around them as well as empowering them to become their best self.

Shatala Cain's Full Resume


smith.jpgMckenzie Smith - Administrative Assistant

I believe all children deserve an education that grants them access to the world in which they live. Knowledge is the right of all humanity. Teaching and learning is the process by which education is gained. The innate yearning to learn resides within all of us and is vital to our survival. As educators, we shoulder the immense responsibility of guiding that process. It our job to cultivate and nurture that innate yearning. We go to school to learn pedagogy, we attend trainings to further develop of craft, but the desire to educate truly comes from within. I wake each day with a desire to share and acquire knowledge. I absolutely love the teaching and learning process; I seek opportunities to instill this insatiable appetite into all those in my charge. I do not take the responsibility lightly, I understand that my guidance and facilitation of the learning process, as well as my approach to teaching, will have an immeasurable impact on all students I teach. With this in mind, I set forth charting paths of excellence for my students. I see them as an extension of myself, natural variations of my love for learning.

In closing, unlike other professions we have the unique opportunity mold and change the future. We will teach tomorrow’s leaders, doctors, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. They come to us daily, not knowing the greatness they are destined for. It is our duty to cultivate and nourish their capacity for learning. With this in mind, let’s change the world!

Mckenzie Smith's Full Resume 

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