The DeKalb County Board of Education officially approved Jon Peppers as Crossville High School’s new principal during its Thursday night meeting in Rainsville.

Jon succeeds David Uptain, who retired after serving 16 years as principal of his alma mater.

“I want to thank David Uptain for his years of service and commitment to Crossville High School,” said Superintendent of Education Jason Barnett.

“He had a strong love for CHS, the staff, students and community. That was evident in every conversation we had. I wish him the best of luck in the future and want to congratulate him on his retirement.

“The principal position at Crossville High School is important to the school as well as the community at large. There has been much conversation and interest as to who the new leader of the school would be. I believe that there is great excitement surrounding CHS.”

Dr. Barnett said approximately 27 applicants from across the state expressed interest in the job.

“We had many qualified and deserving applicants interested in the job,” Dr. Barnett said. “We wanted to have a thorough process whereby we reviewed applicants. We considered their references and experiences and then narrowed down the ones we felt would best serve Crossville High School to interview.

“Once we completed the interview process, we narrowed them down to a group of finalists and had them outline some specific actions and plans they would like to implement at Crossville High School to better serve CHS students.

“Mr. Peppers did a very good job throughout the process and had a strong vision and strategic plan for how he wanted to accomplish these changes.”

Jon started to work July 18 after Dr. Barnett gave him the OK to get the ball rolling.

He launched his first day by trying to hire five teachers and a girls basketball coach before faculty and staff begin their new year Aug. 1. The first day for DeKalb County students is Aug. 7.

“I’m kind of getting a late start with two weeks before school starts,” Jon said. “There are a lot of things that have to be completed before school starts. It’s been a really busy start for me.

“Even though it’s been busy, it’s been a very exciting time for me. Being my alma mater, it’s something that’s dear to my heart.”

Jon, 45, is a 1990 graduate of CHS and a 1995 graduate of Jacksonville State. He began teaching at CHS in 1995 and served as the varsity girls basketball coach from 2005-17.

He guided the Lady Lions to the Class 3A state tournament championship in 2008.

Coach Peppers spent the last year and a half as assistant principal of Crossville Elementary School.

“I’ve been very appreciative of the faculty and the community for helping back me during this process, and I would say it’s because of them that I’m in this role,” Jon said.

“I’m very familiar with the faculty and the students. They know me, and they know that I don’t settle for mediocrity. I’m going to expect excellence.

“As a former graduate and having been teaching here for 22 years, I have seen a change at the school. We’ve become very multi-cultural. Some people look at that in a negative sense, and I see it in a positive sense. We have great students and a great faculty just like when I was in school here.”

Coach Peppers is excited about the CHS faculty’s first bilingual teacher, Vanessa Marroquin, who graduated from Collinsville. She will teach math.

“Many of our teachers here are former grads,” he said. “Our elementary school was extremely high, as 80 to 85 percent are former grads. It’s probably close to that here at the high school.

“We’ve got a lot of young, energetic Christian role model coaches who are former graduates who are back here as our coaches. I see a lot of excitement going on here in the high school and community.”

Coach Peppers is going to implement Google classroom in the 2017-18 school year. The school has 500 Chromebooks to distribute.

“We’ll have a full-time art teacher here, and we’re the only school in the county [system] that has one,” Jon said. “Deborah Colvin, who does our choir, is amazing. We have an outstanding [new] band director [Jacob Barkley].

“There are a lot of good things happening at Crossville.”

Dr. Barnett encouraged Coach Peppers to stick to the plan he’s formulated for CHS.

“I shared with Mr. Peppers that I appreciated the vision and plan he shared for Crossville High School and that I am eager to assist in that process,” Dr. Barnett said. “I believe if we stick to that plan, we will continue to see good things in the future of CHS.”

I enjoyed working with Jon during his tenure as the Lady Lions head coach. I’ll never forget his team’s amazing run to the state championship.

I wish him the best in his new role and hope CHS thrives academically and in all of its extracurricular activities under his leadership.

Shannon J. Allen is sports editor of The Sand Mountain Reporter. He can be contacted at

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