UPSD to hire two new principals

By DEMETRIUS THOMPSON,

There will soon be two head administrators at two of the Union schools and parents and the community got to give their input on what qualities they want in candidates at a listening session on Tuesday evening.

Union Middle School Principal Tyler Hansford was named as the district’s superintendent in February, and Union Elementary School Principal Deanna Rush will transfer to the high school as the new guidance counselor this summer.

Current UHS Guidance Counselor Fawn Keen will take a job at the Grenada School District after this school year.

Hansford, who has been handling duties as the UMS principal as he works alongside interim superintendent Wayne McDill in the transition, said that the two positions have already attracted several qualified candidates from all over the state.

“We’ve had a good bit of interest, especially for the middle school job because everybody kind of knew it was coming open. But the elementary opening was kind of a surprise to a lot of people, and of course with that being an ‘A’ school and top rated there’s a lot of interest there too, and that’s good,” Hansford said. “That means we can go out and get the very best people to come in, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Hansford said that he and the staffs of both schools have discussed the qualifications that will be required for the two new principals and that a track record of success either as a teacher or an administrator will be a strong plus.

“What we’re looking for is someone who champions student achievement and who has been an advocate for teachers and students and an advocate for public education,” he said. “As the principal goes, so go the schools. Teachers and students are the ones in the trenches doing the work, but schools tend to take on the mantra of the principal. So, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got strong people leading our schools.”

Hansford said that internal candidates will also be considered along with outside candidates but that right now the district isn’t leaning either way.

“We’ll have a committee made of up five or six people for each search, and together we’ll decide who’s the best fit, whether it’s an internal candidate or someone from outside,” he said. “I’ll have the final say because ultimately I’m responsible for them, but I’m very interested in it being a collaborative process that people are brought in on.”

He said the tentative plan now is to get the two candidates approved for consideration by the school board at its April 9 meeting.

Rush, who was hired as the UES principal in 2015, said that the main reason she decided to transfer to the counselor’s position was to have a more hands-on experience with students.

“Both are very important positions for our students, but the thing that really draws me to counseling is that you can really be focused on the students,” she said. “When you’re a principal, you are all about the students, but you also have to worry about budgets, facilities, safety and your employees, so there are so many things that take you away from students, so I just didn’t get to focus on kids as much as I’d like to. I just missed that daily interaction and strong relationships you can have with kids as a counselor. That’s what drew me back to it.”

During Rush’s three-year tenure, UES was ranked as the top elementary school in the state for the 2015-16 school year according to results from the state’s Assessment Program exams taken in the spring of 2016.

The school maintained an “A” rating from the Mississippi Department of Education during her first two years at the helm. Rush previously taught English at UHS and worked at ECCC before being hired as the UES principal. She said that she will miss the excitement that the younger students bring to the classroom each day.

“They are different from high school students in that they are not afraid or embarrassed to show you how excited they are or how much they love you,” she said. “I’ll miss the hugs from the kids and just their daily joy they bring as they come into the building every day.”

Rush said that the good thing about the UPSD is that the high school and elementary school buildings are on the same campus, so she won’t be too far from her former students.

“That’s the good thing about a small district is that I’ll still see those kids daily, and in the blink of an eye they’ll be in high school and the ones that I built relationships with in elementary I’ll get to have that chance with them again,” Rush said.