CCSD Announces New Principal of Johnnie Lay Burks Elementary, Learning Center Director

Snow and Tolbert April 12, 2024

At its Thursday, April 11 meeting, the Clarke County Board of Education approved the hires of two long-time Clarke County educators as principal of Johnnie Lay Burks Elementary School and Director of the Clarke County School District Learning Center. 

Matthew Snow, who has served as Burks Elementary’s interim principal since February and has been with the school since 2009, has been named principal, effective immediately. The appointment was approved following an extensive search and interview process by the district that included input from the Burks local school governance team. 

Also, Cedar Shoals High School associate principal Dr. Utevia Tolbert has been hired for the newly-created director position at the Learning Center, which provides alternative education for middle and high school students. Her appointment will become effective July 1.

"We are extremely pleased to see these two seasoned CCSD leaders step into their new roles,” said Dr. Robbie Hooker, CCSD Superintendent. “Both Mr. Snow and Dr. Tolbert bring a wealth of knowledge and experience with them, but more importantly they bring a passion for and belief in our students. I look forward to seeing both schools grow stronger under their leadership.”

Mr. Snow has 24 years of education experience, beginning his career in Pennsylvania as a secondary special education teacher. He then taught English in Japan through an exchange program before joining CCSD as a special education teacher at Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School in 2004. Mr. Snow joined Burks (formerly Chase Street) Elementary in 2009 as a special education teacher and team leader and held that position until becoming assistant principal in 2020.

Mr. Snow holds a bachelor’s degree in History with Social Studies certification from Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and earned his masters in Instructional Technology from Georgia Southern University. 

“Over the past 15 years, Burks has been my educational home, and during this time, I have witnessed firsthand the remarkable work happening within these walls,” said Mr. Snow. “While much has been achieved, there is still important work ahead. I am committed to advancing our efforts to ensure that every student excels academically, socially, and emotionally. I am enthusiastic about collaborating with stakeholders to create the necessary supports for all students to thrive. At Burks Elementary, our goal is to establish a robust educational foundation where every student develops a strong sense of pride in themselves, their school, and their community. This embodies the essence of being a CCSD student.

“I am eager to embark on this journey with the entire Burks community, working together to create a nurturing environment that fosters excellence and achievement for all.”

Dr. Tolbert has spent 21 years with CCSD in various teaching and administrative roles, getting her start with the district in 2003 as a special education teacher. She later became a behavioral specialist at W.R. Coile Middle School and then started as an assistant principal at David C. Barrow Elementary in 2010. Dr. Tolbert moved to Hilsman Middle School as an assistant principal in 2013 and was promoted in 2016 to principal, a position she held for three years before moving to the District Office as a special education coordinator. She also served as the district’s Director of Restorative Discipline prior to becoming an associate principal at Cedar Shoals in August 2022, a role she has held since.

Dr. Tolbert holds a bachelor’s degree in History from the University of West Georgia, a masters in Teaching from Piedmont College, and earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of Georgia. She also holds a specialist degree from Cambridge College.

“I am honored to accept the role of Director at the Clarke County School District’s Learning Center,” said Dr. Tolbert. “I am eager to collaborate with talented educators, supportive families, and a diverse student body to continue nurturing an environment where everyone feels valued, empowered, and inspired to reach their full potential. I am excited about the journey ahead and the opportunity to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students. With an open heart and a steadfast commitment to excellence, I look forward to leading CCSD’s Learning Center toward continued growth and success.”