FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Nathan Buhl, the newly-installed principal of Milton High School, was arrested July 26 and charged by Forsyth County Sheriff's deputies with DUI.
Buhl, 37, of Canton, left a home on Pointe Vecchio Circle in north Forsyth County about 9:42 p.m. when he allegedly hit a parked car with his own vehicle.
He left the scene of the accident, but not before the owner of the damaged car was able to get his tag number. Forsyth County deputies contacted the Cherokee County Sheriff for information on Buhl’s car, since Buhl lives in Cherokee County.
Cherokee deputies found the vehicle had crashed again, with Buhl inside. He was taken to North Fulton Hospital for his injuries and there, Forsyth County deputies became suspicious he was under the influence of alcohol. He was charged with DUI along with hit and run, failure to report striking an object and failure to maintain lane.
By all accounts Buhl was on the education fast track, having ascended from an elementary teacher in a rural Georgia school to principal of one of the top high schools in the state in less than 15 years.
Buhl resigned as principal at Milton High School after his July 26 DUI.
“I am humbled and ashamed, after making the worst decisions of my life,” wrote Buhl in a letter to Milton families four days later. “A night of celebration quickly turned to nightmare because of the series of poor choices that I made.”
Buhl had been principal at Milton since mid-May. He has been charged with several violations related to the incident. Fulton School officials said Buhl “self-reported” the incident and submitted his resignation immediately.
“Buhl’s actions have made it difficult for him, at this time, to serve as the leader of Milton High School,” said Area Superintendent Vic Shandor. “Therefore, we have accepted his decision to step down as principal. We appreciate him placing the needs of the school community first as he is dealing with this complex issue.”
In the interim, former principal Ron Tesch will return to Milton until a permanent replacement is found. Tesch retired in 2010 after leading Milton High for 12 years. Since his retirement he also served as the interim principal at Riverwood High School during a transition.
Katie Reeves, the Fulton School Board member whose district includes Milton High, welcomed the news of Tesch’s return during the interim.
“This [situation] is sad for everyone involved, but we are fortunate to have Milton in the hands of a highly experienced principal, Ron Tesch, to be in place for the first day of school,” said Reeves.
Buhl’s education career had been on an upward trajectory. After his first teaching assignment in 1999 in Coweta County, he moved on to Cherokee County Schools and was an assistant middle school principal by 2005. In May 2011 he became the principal at Crabapple Middle School in Roswell where he remained until this May when he moved to Milton High.
Last year Buhl was named the Principal of the Year by the North Fulton PTA, and in 2012 received the Achievement Award from the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders. For the past few weeks, Buhl had been hosting “meet and greets” throughout the Milton community to get to know the parents and to introduce himself.
One parent who attended was impressed with his commitment to his job.
“He seemed very much a family man who loved his job and loved what he was doing,” said Carolyn Lauterbach. “He told us he was living his dream and made you feel good that we always put the kids first.”
In his parting statement to families, Buhl said he is taking time to focus on himself and his family.
“I need to reflect on what led me to make a series of disastrous decisions this past weekend, and I need to reflect with gratitude on the realization that it could have been even worse,” he wrote.
School system leaders confirmed a search for Buhl’s replacement will be far reaching.
“We will immediately conduct a national search for exceptional candidates,” said Shandor. “We will also be conducting focus groups with parents and staff to gather valuable input into the selection process. “
Shandor added a survey will be distributed to obtain “stakeholder input” to determine what the community wants in a leader.
Buhl’s resignation is the second one in the past year for the Milton community attributed to lapses of judgment. In January, the principal of Crabapple Crossing Elementary, George Freiberger, stepped down after it was discovered he had violated school system policies in regards to personnel. Unlike Buhl’s situation, the issue with Freiberger was not criminal in nature.
Jonathan Copsey contributed reporting to this article