FHS assistant tapped to lead S.P. Morton

Published 12:43 pm Saturday, June 14, 2014

FRANKLIN—Newly named S.P. Morton Elementary Principal Jason Chandler said he’s ready to lead the staff and students at the school into the future.

Chandler, who is the assistant principal at Franklin High School, was offered the position on Wednesday after the Franklin City Public School Board approved the move at its called meeting. This is following the acceptance of the resignations of Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins and assistant principal Jametha Ruffin. Chandler will start on June 18.

Chandler said he knows he is going into a situation with challenges, as S.P. Morton became a priority school at the beginning of the school year. A priority school is among the lowest 5 percent in Title I schools in student performance.

“I think that when you look at any school, and why things aren’t successful, it is a tricky thing,” he said. “There’s not a a magic pill given to make it successful.”

Despite that, he does have some ideas coming from the high school with some of the successes they have had.

“I think the reason that has happened is because we have focused on instruction,” Chandler said. “We’ve been making sure that we were unpacking the curriculum and keeping it aligned to what is being taught and tested. And then we are making sure that we have a safe and nurturing environment for the children. Those are the same basic principles needed at S.P. Morton.”

One thing Chandler knows for sure is that it’s not going to be easy.

“It is going to take a lot of hard work, but I think with hard work also comes great success,” he said. “We are going to need to really work hard and have a laser-like focus on instruction and improving the school. Our No. 1 priority as a school needs to be to make sure the students are getting the education they deserve and also in enabling them to be productive and ultimately good citizens.”

Another important aspect to focus on is the community of Franklin.

“I want to bring in the S.P. Morton stakeholders — the teachers, the families and the business leaders — and looking toward establishing a common vision,” he said. “We also need to focus on what the community wants, and I believe that is an essential part to moving along the right track.”

Having worked in the system, Chandler said he already has a positive impression on the teachers and staff at the school.

“I think that is one of the best things about the Franklin City Public Schools,” he said. “We are a small and tight-knit family. We have really good teachers at S.P. Morton, and I’m looking forward to going there.”

Chandler said his leadership style is more participative — he just can’t see himself sitting behind a desk all day.

“I really like to get in and be visible in the classrooms,” he said. “I want to get to know the teachers, the students and lead by participating with them.”

This is Chandler’s first principal job. He’s been assistant principal at Franklin High School for two years, and he was also an adjunct assistant principal, which was a dean of students type role, in Prince George County before coming over to Franklin.

Before getting into administration, he taught physical education and was an athletic trainer. From there he felt the calling to go into school administration. He received his Master’s in curriculum and instruction from Averett University, and then completed his post-Master’s Certificate from George Washington University in educational administration and supervision. Chandler is a doctoral candidate in educational administration and policy study at George Washington University.

Leaving Franklin High School won’t be easy for him.

“Mr. [Travis] Felts and I have established a great working relationship,” he said. “He is the hardest- working man I know. He spends countless hours at that school. And I think the success that Franklin High School has had is attributed to his work ethic and leadership.

“The friends I’ve made are friends that I’ll have for a lifetime. We’ve had great success, as well as great challenges a along the way, and I’ll definitely miss the camaraderie and friendships. But one good thing is that I’m only across town, and it won’t be too hard to interact with them.”

Chandler said it’s very early, but he did want the people invested in the Franklin Public School System and S.P. Morton in particular to know something.

“I just want the readers to know that we are going to be successful again,” he said. “I know that in my heart. I realize that we have gone through hard times at S.P. Morton, but we will be successful again.”

Multiple phone calls to Harris Rollins and Ruffin were never returned. Human Resources Director Gail Wade said that the leaders gave no reasoning behind their resignations. Harris Rollins attempted to resign this past year, but at the last minute withdrew her resignation after receiving support from the school to stay.