[quote style=”2″]Three Candidates in Line to Succeed BJ Wilson[/quote]
A large and interested crowd filled the library at Rocky Heights Elementary School on Wednesday to hear from the three finalists for the school’s principal position.
Dr. Michelle Jensen, Stacy Roberts – both from the Hermiston School District – and Jerad Farley each spent about a half hour during the afternoon talking about themselves, their careers and answering questions from staff, parents and young students.
The candidate selected will replace BJ Wilson, who will serve as director of special education next school year.
First up was Farley, who has been with the Othello School District since 2007. Farley said Othello has more than 90 percent of its students receiving free or reduced meals and 93 percent of the student population is Hispanic.
Farley was hired to teach sixth grade and has since served as a teacher/grade chair and most recently as a district instructional coach, while completing an admin internship. He has a background in English language arts and mathematics programs as an instructional coach and a base knowledge of bilingual, migrant and Title I programs.
He said the hardest decision of his career was to leave the classroom.
“My heart is with the kids,” he said. “But I think I’m ready to take on an administrative role.”
Farley said he’s “a pretty laid back guy with one caveat – I’m intensely motivated by student achievement.”
Farley added that parents play a key role in their children’s education. In Othello, a Parent Data Night was implemented in which the schools would share student data with parents.
“We want to be transparent about what we’re doing in school and with transparency, it’s easier to create a partnership with the parents,” he said.
One young girl got straight to point when she asked Farley why he wanted to be a principal.
“Great question,” he said. “I had some really impactful people in my life and without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Nothing levels the playing field in life as education. I want to do for others what was done for me.”
Jensen has nine years of experience working in education, all at the Hermiston School District. She was hired in 2006 as a school counselor. She then moved into the role of coordinator of online learning and academic support in 2014, overseeing the Hermiston ONLINE! and Talented and Gifted (TAG) programs.
When asked what her top three priorities would be if hired, Jensen said she would actually only have one.
“I would meet with every staff member to get a feel for their perspective on things and find out what the building needs,” she said. “That would have to be the first thing.”
She was asked how she would create a “buy-in” with staff in order to create a healthy working relationship.
“You do that by being real and approachable,” she said. “I’m a real person and having a relationship with people is No. 1. The most effective principals don’t sit in their office all day – they’re part of the staff.”
Jensen said her biggest challenges, having never taught in a classroom before, would be mostly “perceived” challenges.
“The fact that I haven’t been a teacher in a classroom could be perceived as a weakness, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the classroom over the years,” she said.
When asked where she thought she would be in five years, Jensen had just a one-word answer.
Roberts, a Hermiston High School graduate, was hired by the district in 1999 as a sixth-grade teacher at Sandstone Middle School. While there, she was a mentor teacher and sixth grade team leader. Roberts was named Educator of the Year in 2005. After 11 years of teaching, she accepted the dean of students and athletic director position for Armand Larive Middle School and was promoted to ALMS assistant principal in 2013.
Her first question came from a young Rocky Heights student who wanted to know if Roberts would keep the student leadership program at the school.
“I think that’s very important for students,” she said. “I’m not here to change things. Rocky Heights has an amazing staff.”
She said trust between staff and administration was the hardest, but most critical thing to develop.
“I would want to get to know each staff member and find out what their strengths are and what their big picture for the school is,” she said.
Roberts said she would continue encouraging parents to volunteer at the school.
“Parents are a big part of education,” she said. “It’s important to get them volunteering. I want them in the building.”
She, too, was asked by a student why she wanted to become the principal at Rocky Heights.
“I like to see the ‘ah-ha’ moment on kids’ faces,” she said. “Plus, I would get to continue to learn new things, as well.”