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Mills Lawn Principal Christine Hatton submitted her resignation to the school board last Thursday, Oct. 8.

MLS principal resigns post

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In executive session last Thursday, Yellow Springs Board of Education members “received and accepted” a letter of resignation from Mills Lawn principal Christine Hatton. The letter cited “personal reasons” and was effective immediately. Board members said the resignation was not expected.

In interviews, several board members said they could not provide more information on Hatton’s decision.

“The board accepted Principal Hatton’s resignation,” Angela Wright said on Friday. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Ray Combs, a former Kettering city schools administrator, has been named interim building administrator at Mills Lawn. Combs, who served as interim principal at Mills Lawn during the period before Hatton’s hire, will act in the capacity of principal for the rest of the school year if approved by the board at its next meeting, Nov. 12.

The elementary principal position is the most recent addition to a slate of leadership positions in a period of change within the district. Three spaces on the board are up for election on Nov. 3. The newly constituted board will seat the new superintendent and approve the Mills Lawn principal position. High school principal John Gudgel has made public on various occasions his plans to retire in the near future.

Despite the uncertainty, board president Aïda Merhemic said she feels hopeful.

“We have an opportunity here,” she said, noting that an “administrative sweep” can be a time to “come together and set the district in a new direction.”

Hatton was at the beginning of her ninth year in the district. She had been employed on three-year contracts until her annual evaluation in May, when the school board gave her a one-year contract, according to board member Anne Erickson, who could not comment on the reason for the change.

During Hatton’s tenure, Mills Lawn parents had occasionally expressed to the board that there were difficulties with communication between parents and the principal. In a survey from the district to teachers earlier this year, teachers were asked if their communication with Hatton had improved.

Reached at home this week, Hatton stated that she had only personal reasons for leaving the job. She wants to spend more time with her mother, she said.

According to district interim Superintendent Tony Armocida, during the school day last Friday meetings were held with Mills Lawn teachers and staff to address their immediate needs and concerns. Teachers agreed to tell students who asked why Hatton was absent. When the interim principal is introduced, Armocida said students will be told “Ms. Hatton has decided that she wanted to do something else.” As of last Friday, Armocida said the most immediate need was to meet with the school’s advisory board, the leadership group within the school. The next step, he said, is to create a search process for the next principal.

The search process will begin with the creation of an interview committee, Armocida said. Past committees have included parents as well as staff, teachers and board members. Throughout the year, Armocida expects to be more present at Mills Lawn than normal, to “offer support” to the interim principal and to the school at large.

“This school has so much potential,” he said. “We’ve got a core of really experienced teachers, and in my opinion, we can adjust to changes.”

According to PTO president Christine Zernzach, both Combs and Armocida will be in attendance at the next PTO meeting to meet parents and hear their concerns.

“PTO can build effective bridges from home to school most effectively when there is open and honest communications,” Zernzach said. “Parents need to get their information from the administration.”

The meeting will be held 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, in the board room at Mills Lawn. Parents are encouraged to e-mail to allow the PTO to prepare adequate space.

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