Yellow Springs Schools—Principal candidates welcomed
- Published: March 21, 2019
In an executive session before the regular school board meeting on March 14, district Superintendent Mario Basora expects to come to a decision on selecting a new principal for Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School.
Basora said earlier this week that the district’s plan is to make an offer to the selected candidate on Friday, if a desired candidate is named. Once the offer is accepted, the board will hold a special meeting during which Basora will officially recommend the candidate for board approval. If approved, the new administrator’s contract will begin with the 2019–20 school year.
In lead up to the final decision, the three finalists for the position each participated this week in day-long individual interviews that included sessions with teachers, students and community members.
• Julie Taylor, currently curriculum supervisor for secondary education at Beavercreek City Schools, came in Monday, March 11.
• Ejovwokoghene Odje, assistant principal at Thurgood Marshall STEM High School in Dayton, was here Tuesday, March 12.
• And Jack Hatert, the interim principal at YSHS/MMS since March last year, was scheduled Wednesday, March 13.
The News attended each evening session. Hatert’s, however, came after this week’s press run, and will be covered in an updated article on the paper’s website, at https://www.ysnews.com.
Basora said Tuesday night that if, however, there is a widespread feeling after the final session Wednesday that none of the candidates is viable, then the district will continue its search.
“We want the best person for the job of leading McKinney Middle School and Yellow Springs High School,” he said to the 30-some people in attendance for that evening’s session.
Basora said each interview day began with a professional development meeting for faculty and continued with interviews by separate groups of teachers and students. The candidates also observed a teacher in the classroom and then gave personal feedback, with Basora observing the interaction. In the midst of the day was a meeting with an “unhappy parent” role-playing distress about a past real-life-based scenario in which an assistant principal had told the parent’s child that his one-act play, titled “Cat Calls,” could not be performed that weekend.
One of the nearly 30 people gathered the first evening noted that the candidates must be exhausted by the time they got to their evening sessions and likely not at their best.
“This is what the life of a principal is like” Basora said. The days are long and include many different kinds of interactions, he added.
The public sessions gave a glimpse not only into the candidates’ backgrounds and educational philosophies, but also some of the issues important to the community.
Each session was divided into three 30-minute segments: a presentation by the candidate, a question-and-answer period and a followup time when the candidate wasn’t present and community members shared their thoughts and reactions. The presentations and Q-and-A’s were live streamed online and posted to the district’s YouTube channel. As of Wednesday morning, the Monday evening session had over 250 views and the Tuesday session had more than 150.
The candidates fielded questions about handling racial incidents at school, the meaning of a safe environment, electronic devices, social media, educational engagement and project-based learning, or PBL, among others.
Taylor, who has been with Beavercreek Schools since 2016, titled her presentation “Leading with Integrity.”
She opened by thanking the district for the hospitality shown her throughout her visit Monday, adding that “the highlight” of her day had been spotting comedian Dave Chappelle downtown.
She explained that her educational philosophy “begins with character qualities,” listing those as authenticity, integrity and transparency.
She described herself as a good listener as well as a strong collaborator, adding that she appreciates the Yellow Springs community’s involvement in the schools.
Taylor said she wanted to join the Yellow Springs school district in large part because she is “so passionate about PBL,” which is central to the district’s curriculum.
A resident of Centerville, where she lives with her three children, Taylor worked for over six years with Springfield City Schools, as an assistant principal and curriculum coach, before joining Beavercreek. Prior to that she taught math through the ECOT online school while her children were small. She also has taught math in the Vandalia-Butler and Northmont school districts.
Taylor has a bachelor of arts degree in secondary mathematics from Wilmington College, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Dayton, She earned superintendent certification from Miami University last year.
In response to the final question of the night — “What haven’t we asked you that you think we should know?” — Taylor replied that “100 percent, my philosophy when coming to a new situation is building relationships. One of the strengths I have is building relationships, not only with teachers and students, but also fellow staff and administrators. I also welcome the input of community members. Nothing gets done if you don’t have strong relationships.”
Odje, in his evening session Tuesday, also stressed the importance of relationship building. He said he had been impressed by his day spent in the middle/high school.
“Everybody’s so personable here. Everyone is so happy,” he said.
He also observed “some great teaching,” he said.
A life-long resident of Xenia, Odje has spent the past six years in education at Thurgood Marshall in Dayton, the first four as a teacher and the last two as an administrator. Prior to joining Dayton Schools, his resume lists seven years with Greene County Juvenile Courts as a counselor and counselor trainer at the juvenile in-treatment center.
He holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and government, licensure in AYA integrated social studies and a master’s of education in instructional leadership/instructional technology, all from Central State University. He also completed the secondary school administration/principalship licensure program at Wright State in 2016.
He said he enjoys bicycling, reading and traveling with his family. An early career dream was to be a chef, and he learned cooking and baking skills from his mother and aunts.
Odje said that before the beginning of each new school year he reads “Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” by Paulo Freire.
He identified three pillars of his educational philosophy.
• “The purpose of school is a vehicle to deliver a relevant education.”
• “The role of the teacher is the facilitator.”
• “Students best learn when these elements are aligned.”
Expanding on those ideals, Odje said, “Students need to feel safe, need to feel encouraged, what [they] say matters.”
Odje also spoke about his support for the district’s PBL model, and said that he wanted to help the district take PBL to the next level.
Previously Assistant Principal at the high/middle school, Hatert has been serving as interim principal since former Principal Tim Krier went on leave a year ago in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct against a family member enrolled at the school.
A graduate of Wright State University, Hatert has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in middle childhood education and a master’s in educational leadership. He also completed the principal licensure program at Wright State in 2017.
Hired by Yellow Springs Schools upon completion of his first master’s in 2006, he spent his first two years teaching fifth and sixth grade at Mills Lawn before moving up to McKinney Middle School, where he taught math and science. He became assistant principal half time while teaching PBL Foundations half time in 2015.
A report from Hatert’s presentation will be posted Thursday at ysnews.com.