The arrival of a new school year brings a change in leadership at nearly half of the schools in the Williamsburg-James City division.
One retirement, a resignation and two promotions to central office prompted the hiring of four new principals and the reassignment of three others, according to recently approved personnel actions by the School Board.
Longtime Norge Elementary school principal Nancy Catano has retired, while former Hornsby Middle School principal Byron Bishop departed for a leadership position in New Kent schools. Former D.J. Montague Elementary principal Lynn Turner has been named supervisor of federal programs, while former James River Elementary principal Stacia Barreau has been named director of special education.
The school division recently made four new appointments: Jessica Ellison as principal at Hornsby, Gary Black as principal at Stonehouse Elementary, Mike Stutt as principal at James River and Michelle Banks as principal at Berkeley Middle School. Former Berkeley principal Karen Swann now serves as principal at Rawls Byrd Elementary, former Rawls Byrd principal Cathy Vazquez now serves D.J. Montague and former Stonehouse principal Kim Pickles now serves Norge.
According to spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith, the open positions were posted publicly and the pool of candidates was "substantial," including both internal and external candidates.
Regarding internal transfers, she said: "We have very skilled educators in our leadership roles and, with the addition of new principals, there was an opportunity to evaluate school needs and match those needs with the expertise of our talented principals."
With 19 years of experience in education, Ellison joins WJC Schools after nine years as an assistant principal of instruction in two Hampton City schools. Ellison holds a bachelor's degree from Old Dominion University, where she concentrated in math and science, and has a master's degree in middle school education and an educational specialist degree from ODU as well. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate at ODU. She described her educational philosophy as ensuring children have access to quality education and experience success, which she said can be accomplished via collaboration among the school, parents and community. "All children will learn with proper support, resources and guidance. ...The overarching goal is to teach students to be independent thinkers and lifelong learners who actively seek opportunities to positively contribute to society and pursue their post-secondary goals," Ellison says.
Banks joins WJC Schools from Newport News City schools as a 16-year veteran in education. She holds a bachelor's degree in French from Christopher Newport University and a master's in educational leadership from ODU. Banks said she plans to hold meetings with students and parents and regularly attend school functions and community events to build relationships. "I believe that not only can all students learn, but all students deserve to be challenged and to make significant progress," she says. "I believe that as educational practitioners, we owe our students our best by providing a world-class educational experience suitable for the ever-shrinking global environment in which we live and compete. ... we are responsible for developing the entire child, not just conveying information."
Black has served as a principal and assistant principal in the Newport News school division, and this year will begin his 20th year as an educator. He holds a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Grove City College. He also holds a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from University of Virginia and a certificat in educational leadership from Virginia Commonwealth University. Black said he specifically plans to focus on student engagement and individual student needs this year, and said he plans to create rigorous, engaging activities in the areas of reading, writing and math. "All students can learn, and they all learn in different ways," he says. "Our challenge is to discover how to reach each child. Teachers have a 'toolbox' of instructional strategies. Our job is to find the right 'tool' in the 'toolbox' that will help each individual child."
James River Elementary
Stutt served Hampton City Schools as a principal for the past six years, and has 21 overall years of experience in education. He holds a bachelor's degree from Christopher Newport University and a master's degree in leadership administration from Regent University. He said his ultimate goal is to "ensure that children are provided with high-quality instruction in an environment that is inviting, safe, secure and meets the needs of every student." He said he is excited for the challenge of learning about a new community. He said his specific goals are to "arrange opportunities for all learners to be successful, provide a safe and caring place where all cultures are appreciated, communicate with families on a regular basis on their child's progress (and) strive to meet and exceed all federal and state accreditation standards."
Rawls Byrd Elementary
Swann previously spent four years as principal at Berkeley. She has spent 11 of her 12 years in education with WJC Schools. She holds two degrees from the College of William and Mary: A bachelor's degree in english and secondary education and a master's in educational policy, planning and leadership. Her goals include continuing advancement for students and improving communication with families. Swann said she hopes to "ignite excitement, serve as a resource and stay true to the profession understanding our responsibility to be on top of trends in society in order to prepare students for life beyond K-12 education."
Pickles is entering her 10th year with WJC Schools and her 18th year overall as an educator. She spent the last three years as principal at Stonehouse. Pickles holds three degrees: A bachelor's degree in special education from East Carolina University, a master's degree in educational leadership from ODU, and a doctorate in educationaly policy, planning and leadership from William and Mary. She said her goal is to see continued forward movement and provide a safe and supportive environment for learning. "As a school, we are annually faced with the challenge of continuing to meet and move forward for the success of all of our students," she says. "This year will be no different in our desire to meet standards and to continue teaching our students to the highest caliber possible."
D.J. Montague Elementary
Vazquez previousy served as principal at Rawls Byrd Elementary for the past four years. She is in her 35th year with WJC Schools. She holds a bachelor's degree in health, physical education and biology from Radord College and a master's in educational policy, planning and leadership from William and Mary. Vazquez and new assistant principal Scott Holland have already designated Fridays as "School Spirit" days, when students and staff will be encouraged to wear school colors. She says her educational philosophy includes modeling what she expects from others, having a visible presence in school, building relationships with students and families for academic success and believing that all students can learn. "I think having positive relationships with all stakeholders is key to not only student achievement but all aspects of the school culture," she says.