The New Dr. Lowery: Chamblee Principal Finishes School

Carrie Moore

From March 2011:

During the day, Rochelle Lowery worked as principal of the Chamblee High School: supervising the building, making sure things go smoothly, and taking care of students. On her own time, however, she became someone else entirely: a student.

Last year, in 2010, she obtained her doctorate, becoming Dr. Rochelle Lowery.

“There was, in the back of my head, this learning and hearing about folks who I admire and think highly of, and they held these doctorate degrees,” said Lowery. “There was something about them; the air about them just made me think, ‘Well, maybe I need to go that route too,’ and that was kind of the encouragement that drove me in the direction of a doctor’s degree.”

Lowery obtained her Ed.D from Georgia Southern University in December of 2010. Initially, Lowery had trouble deciding what degree she wanted to pursue: the Ed.D, which is specifically geared towards education, or the Ph.D. Lowery decided to check with a few outside sources.

“It took me a while to digest the Ed.D piece because I was always hooked on the Ph.D.,” said Lowery. “So eventually, after talking to a number of people who had acquired the Ed.D, they pretty much convinced me that it’s specifically designated for education, and other than that, there’s not a lot of difference. So in researching, I found a program at Georgia Southern University and did what I had to do for enrollment. I was accepted into the program, and then I was on my way to earning my doctor’s degree.”

For a little over a year, Lowery and a cohort met in Augusta, Georgia at nine o’clock on Saturday mornings and stayed in class until about four-thirty for course work. After the course work was completed, Lowery began to dissertation for her doctorate: High School Students and Their Perception of Their High School Experience.

Since she needed to gather information from the students here at Chamblee, Lowery had a difficult time getting approval for her doctorate dissertation.

“I had the challenge of getting approval to collect data which I thought was kind of unusual, being that I am the principal here and I had all the data at my fingertips,” said Lowery. “But once I gained approval, Coach Smith was instrumental in helping to organize a plan. I’m thankful to the people here at this school because I had help collecting the data that I needed.”

The journalism class and English department helped Lowery distribute the surveys for her dissertation. As lowery was still holding the position of principal while she was pursuing her doctorate, it was difficult for her to handle her job and balance schoolwork.

“It just took some time because of the job that I do here daily and trying to find the time to actually sit down and focus on dissertation matters,” said Lowery. “But beyond that, that was pretty much the path that I took to get this thing complete.”

Lowery obtained her doctorate after three years.

Lowery’s husband, J.R. Lowery, was supportive of his wife throughout the entire process.

“I have a wonderful husband who was extremely patient with me, and I have to say that because there were probably times when he got zero attention,” said Lowery. “I owe a lot back to him for being patient with me.”

Dr. Lowery was born in Sikeston, Missouri, a little country town in southeastern Missouri. Though she had many interests in high school and was involved in many accelerated classes, activities, and sports, Lowery always knew that she would go into education.

“I knew that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Lowery, “I used to teach my little baby dolls and my little stuffed animals. Then when relatives, especially the younger relatives, would come over, I would always have class. They always knew that we were going to have some type of class.”

While in high school, Lowery played on the volleyball and basketball teams. Her P.E. teacher and volleyball coach, Janie Merrick, inspired her to consider health and physical education as a profession.
“One of my mentors and role models is and always has been my volleyball coach,” said Lowery. “I just aspired to be like her. After having her as a PE teacher and then a volleyball coach, I just started saying ‘well, I want to be a coach,’ so I hung on to that throughout.”

After graduating from high school, Lowery spent two years at Mineral Area Junior College, which is now called Park College. Because her parents could not afford to send her to college, she earned a basketball scholarship.

“Because I thought I was equally as good in basketball as in volleyball, I wanted to play both,” said Lowery. “I could not decide which way to go, and I took the opportunity to go into the junior college because they guaranteed me that I could play both, and I did for two years. I walked on the volleyball team, but I played just as much as anybody who had a scholarship.”

During her second year at Mineral Area, Lowery began receiving correspondence from Joanne Rutherford, the varsity coach at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. Lowery received several cards in the mail, hoping that she would be selected to play a sport for the university. 

“I was all excited and I thought it was actually going to happen,” said Lowery. “Then, as I was getting close to the end of my sophomore year, the mail stopped coming from her.”

Though Lowery did not know what that meant, her coach at the junior college knew that something was going on and decided to call the coach at the University of Missouri.

“Long story short, she told him that she had found a bigger player that would basically fit with the team better than what she thought I would,” said Lowery.

Instead of giving up hope, Lowery turned her attention to Arkansas College, who had been contacting her for a basketball scholarship. If Lowery attended their school, she would receive a full ride for her final two years.

“I didn’t really want to go there, but my parents could not afford to pay for me to go to college,” said Lowery. “I went there, to Batesville, Arkansas, not liking too much of it at any point in time, but I played ball, kept myself occupied doing that and involving myself in community activities, so I made it through.”

Lowery finally earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education/Physical Education and went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Foundation of Education and a Master of Science in Public Administration.

Following her graduation, Lowery joined the Air Force and traveled to several different countries before finally arriving in Georgia. Before she became a P.E. coach at Chamblee, she taught at Peachtree Junior High. Lowery then realized she wanted to coach varsity basketball, so she transferred to Chamblee.

“I started out as a PE teacher, and back then we could teach out of field,” said Lowery. “So I taught some biology courses, some citizenship courses, and I almost taught English.”

After coaching varsity girls basketball for five years and junior varsity boys basketball for one year, Lowery wanted something different.

“I learned about the leadership certification for school administrators, so I kind of researched that out into a program to complete the course work needed for certification,” said Lowery. “Then, after that, Ms. Diana Clark gave me an opportunity to serve as a school administrator, as an assistant principal here. I was an assistant principal for three years. After Ms. Becky Chambers retired and with her mentoring, I interviewed and was selected for this principal job here.”

Lowery has thoroughly enjoyed her job as principal. She greatly admires her students, staff members, parent volunteers, and faculty. Chamblee has been home to Lowery for 17 years.
“I love the students,” said Lowery. “I’m imagining that some students would find that hard to believe, but I do. In my mind, this business is all about the students. Because the book material, the textbook, all that is just great. It’s superb. I just believe in developing the whole child.”