New principals greet their new students today in Beaufort County

August 16, 2009 

Thousands of Beaufort County students will say good-bye to summer vacation as they return to school today.

Students in about one-third of the county's 30 public schools will notice changes in administration.

Eight schools have new principals this year, and two schools -- Red Cedar Elementary in Bluffton and Riverview Charter School in Beaufort -- open for the first time today.

Jo and Jim Shirley left their jobs in Columbia school districts to serve as principals in Beaufort County this year. They said they look forward to working with superintendent Valerie Truesdale as she puts plans in place to boost student achievement.

Jo Shirley will be principal of Port Royal Elementary, and her husband, Jim, will be principal of Hilton Head Island Middle School.

"The opportunity to work with Dr. Truesdale is really neat," Jo Shirley said. "Beaufort is beautiful, and we really thought it would be great to live down here. ... We couldn't believe we were both lucky enough to get a job."

The couple married in October after meeting in professional development events at the University of South Carolina. They're renting an apartment in Bluffton until they sell their homes in Columbia.

Jim Shirley said he enjoys the first day of school, when students are excited to meet their teachers and reunite with old friends before settling back into a routine.

"The first day is when there's that little bit of magic in the air," he said. "Everyone is kind of finding out where they need to be."

Jo Shirley said, "I love the energy that the kids have when they walk in the door. It's just so wonderful to see."

Principals new to their schools this year responded to questions sent by The Beaufort Gazette and Island Packet:

Beaufort Elementary School

Jennifer Hurd Morillo

Hometown: Summerville

Previous job: assistant principal, Lady's Island Middle School

Number of years of administrative experience: 5

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina. Master's degree from Charleston Southern University.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "Given the enormity of our charge as educators of our children, I value the importance of collective effort. I am energized by the many challenges and opportunities we have before us at Beaufort Elementary School. We will work together to provide a high-quality educational experience for all of our students. We will continue to focus on increasing our involvement of parents and community."

Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence

Jeremy Christopher Dinkins

Hometown: Aiken and Simpsonville

Previous job: assistant director, R.D. Anderson Applied Technology Center in Moore

Number of years of administrative experience: 3

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from University of South Carolina Aiken. Master's degree from Jones International University.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "The biggest challenge I expect to face is moving the entire school beyond the difficulties of prior years. ACE has some outstanding instructors with incredibly talented students, so I don't expect any challenges with discipline or instruction. The in-service week has created a lot of positive energy. We plan to carry that energy throughout the year as we achieve fantastic things for every ACE student, especially our seniors."

Broad River Elementary School

Constance Goodwine-Lewis

Hometown: Beaufort

Previous job: assistant principal, Broad River Elementary

Number of years of administrative experience: 4

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from Clemson University. Master's degree from Clemson University. Master's degree from Charleston Southern University.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "Making Adequate Yearly Progress is the probably the biggest challenge for any principal. However, success is the only option for our staff. Our mission is excellence."

Hilton Head Island Middle School

Jim Shirley

Hometown: Greenville and Columbia

Previous job: director of elementary education, Lexington/Richland Counties School District 5

Number of years of administrative experience: 24

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from the University of South Carolina. Master's degree from the University of South Carolina. Educational specialist degree from the University of South Carolina.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "One of my greatest challenges will be bringing the community together to build that common vision for student learning. We will be finding the answer to the question 'What is necessary for student success and what resources must be in the classroom to make success a reality for each child?' Our focus will be on maximizing student achievement."

Port Royal Elementary School

Jo Shirley

Hometown: Columbia

Previous job: assistant principal, Bridge Creek Elementary School, Richland School District 2

Number of years of administrative experience: 5

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from the University of California, Los Angeles. M.B.A. from the University of South Carolina. M.A.T. from the University of South Carolina. Educational leadership in elementary level certification from the University of South Carolina.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "The biggest challenge of my new position will be in getting to know all the wonderful members of the Port Royal Elementary family as quickly as possible. We will continue to focus everything we do on what is best for our children and on helping our students to learn. Our goal is to maximize the potential of each child in our school and to meet the needs of each child."

Red Cedar Elementary

Kathleen Corley

Hometown: Chicago

Previous job: academic improvement officer for the Beaufort County School District

Number of years of administrative experience: 21

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree. Master's degree. Doctorate.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "We need to bring the best practices from all of the schools together through the variety of talented staff members we have assembled. Working together in a new school is very challenging because we're creating something from nothing with regard to our culture -- it's also among the most rewarding tasks on earth."

Riverview Charter School

Eleanore Bednarsh

Hometown: New York City

Previous job: lower-school division head, Marymount School in New York

Number of years of administrative experience: 9

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from Hunter College at the City University of New York and a master's degree from Teachers College at Columbia University

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "Not only is Riverview a new school, but as the first charter school in Beaufort County, decisions made are likely to set precedent for the future."

Shanklin Elementary School

Mark Mansell

Hometown:New Wilmington, Pa.

Previous job: principal, Whale Branch Elementary

Number of years of administrative experience: 20

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from Westminster College. Master's degree from the University of South Carolina.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "Be assured that the teachers and staff members are prepared, enthusiastic and ready to teach Shanklin Elementary School students daily."

St. Helena Elementary School

Kay Keeler

Hometown: Florida

Previous job: Principal, Port Royal Elementary School

Number of years of administrative experience: 8

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from the College of Charleston. Master's degree from The Citadel

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "Meeting the goal of one and a half year's growth in one year for at least 70 percent of the students. With the extended day and year, we will want to see great growth in all of our children. Working and planning with interventionists, home room teachers, support staff and the community will take a lot of time but the benefits will be realized through STEM units, literacy goals, the use of technology and community outreach."

Whale Branch Elementary and James J. Davis Early Learning Center

Don D. Doggett

Hometown : Augusta, Ga.

Previous job: principal, James J. Davis Elementary School

Number of years of administrative experience: 11

Academic credentials: Bachelor's degree from Howard University. Educational specialist degree from South Carolina State University. Master's degree from Howard University. Currently completing a doctorate at South Carolina State University.

What's the biggest challenge you expect to face in your new job?: "The biggest challenge that I will face will be to continue to build upon the success that both schools experienced last year and continuing the focus on student achievement in such a way that will allow the school to reach the goal of one and a half years growth in one year by 70 percent of our students."

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