The Beaufort County Board of Education on Thursday selected from within and outside the district to fill four vacant principal positions for next school year.
The principals will take the top positions at Beaufort Elementary, Hilton Head Island Middle, St. Helena Elementary and Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary schools.
School district officials are still searching for a new principal at H.E. McCracken Middle School in Bluffton.
"This is a strong, well-qualified group of leaders who have solid educational experience as instructional leaders, with a firm grasp on curriculum and how to recognize good teaching in the classroom," said Jeffrey Moss, who will take over as superintendent July 1.
"They will be strong leaders in our schools and strong advocates for our kids. ... They are going to do some amazing things in our schools."
Moss screened and participated in interviews for all five principals, who were also interviewed by a committee at each school comprised of a parent, the school's teacher of the year and a principal from a similar or "feeder" school, as well as acting superintendent Jackie Rosswurm and district chiefs.
Rosswurm and Moss then made recommendations to the school board, based on input from committee members, according to a district news release.
Hilton Head Island Middle School
Gregory Stickel, principal at Northridge Middle School in Winchester, Ohio, will replace Hilton Head Island Middle School Principal Jim Shirley, who has been on extended leave while battling cancer.
Shirley informed the district in April he would not return to his post next school year, nor would his wife, Jo Shirley, principal at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School.
Rosswurm said the Shirleys plan to relocate to the Charlotte area near family as Jim Shirley recuperates. He has been on paid leave since undergoing cancer surgery in November and was receiving oncology treatments at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, according to his wife.
Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary
Assistant principal Celestine LaVan will replace Jo Shirley as principal at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary at the end of the school year. LaVan also served as an assistant principal at Whale Branch Elementary the previous two years, and has served as a math coach, testing coordinator and teacher at Beaufort Elementary. She served in the U.S. Navy from 1993-97.
Gary McCulloch, principal at Kent County Middle School in Chestertown, Md., will take over for Beaufort Elementary Principal Jennifer Morillo. Morillo will lead the school district's "curriculum mapping" next school year, turning new state curriculum standards into lessons teachers can use in the classroom.
St. Helena Elementary School
Assistant Broad River Elementary principal Nicole Holloman will replace St. Helena Elementary School Principal Key Keeler, who announced her retirement earlier this spring.
Holloman served as assistant principal at Beaufort High School last year and was an assistant principal at Hartsville Middle School in Darlington County from 2007-11. Before that, she worked as a middle and high school Spanish teacher and guidance counselor in Georgia and South Carolina.
Keeler's departure follows calls last year from parents, former teachers and a school board member for an overhaul of the underperforming school.
St. Helena Elementary received an "F" last fall when the state released a new system of assessing progress toward federal accountability goals.
Students posted stronger gains in math and reading from fall to winter compared to the same period last year, according to district data, but overall percentages still remain low compared to other county schools. Some grades slipped.
District officials acknowledge that much more needs to be done to lift the school, where almost all students come from families struggling with poverty.
"Ms. Holloman is a strong administrator," school board chairman Bill Evans said. "We need someone who is going to come in, is going to be dynamic, is going to bring good organization and ... strong instructional leadership. I think she's going to do a good job of that."