Chandler rehired as S.P. Morton principal

Published 11:52 am Saturday, July 19, 2014

FRANKLIN—On Monday, Franklin High School Vice Principal Jason Chandler will return to S.P. Morton Elementary School, and this time, he’s there to stay.

Superintendent Willie J. Bell received 12 applications for the job, interviewed eight and called back three for second interviews, and on Thursday he recommended Chandler to become the school’s principal. The Franklin City Public School Board reappointed Chandler on Thursday with a unanimous vote of 6-0. Ward 3’s Dr. Andrea Hall-Leonard was away at a leadership conference.

Due to rehiring the administrator, Bell will have to write a justification letter to the Virginia Department of Education as part of the system’s Corrective Action Plan. He does not see any potential problems surfacing with that.

“I think he will do an outstanding job,” said Bell. “He will be a breath of fresh air for the teachers, students and parents in the community.”

Chandler, who received his master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from Averett University, and then completed his post-Master’s Certificate from George Washington University in educational administration and supervision, stood out during the interviews.

“His in-depth knowledge with the performance of curriculum and instruction stood out,” Bell said of Chandler, who is a doctoral candidate in educational administration and policy study at George Washington University. “As did his attention to details as it pertains to the structure of a building — the rituals and routine of a building. He is also personable. He will be key in building relationships with students, parents and the community.”

Having worked in the division before, he also knows the community and his vision and mission are already aligned with the division’s vision and mission, Bell said.

“He is thoroughly prepared and ready to handle this process, and we as a division are also prepared to support him in anyway that is possible to make sure the building is successful.”

The new principal had previously been hired for the job by the school board back on June 11, following the resignations of then principal Dr. Debbie Harris Rollins and then assistant principal Jametha Ruffin.

But on Thursday, June 19, the school board rescinded the offer 4-1, with Ward 6’s Dawna Walton voting nay, Ward 1’s Will Councill abstaining due to not being present at the board’s closed session to hear the reasoning, and Ward 5’s Sherita Ricks-Parker being absent.

Chandler said he had no ill-feelings about the process, adding that things had to be done in the right way and that he felt like the Franklin City Public Schools Board had been supportive of him throughout the ordeal. He also said he felt the support from the community as a whole, particularly the staff and parents of the S.P. Morton community.

“I am just glad that everything worked out,” he said. “It worked out for me, but more importantly, it is going to work out for the students and staff of S.P. Morton.”

During his three previous days on the job, Chandler said he learned a lot and is excited to get back in the building.

“I felt the excitement in the building, and to have to leave it for a little bit, it just made the heart grow stronger,” he said. “I wanted to get back as soon as possible.”

Chandler said he felt that this is where he is meant to be.

“This is where I feel like I can have the biggest impact,” he said. “The students deserve a leader, and the staff deserves a leader who is going to come in and do the right thing — improve morale, improve instruction, and ultimately, improve the results.”

The new principal said one of his main focuses is going to be on instruction.

“Classroom management can be an issue,” he said. “A good approach is to be proactive in establishing routines and procedures to combat those class management concerns that teachers and administrators have.”

From there, you look at curriculum.

“Once you have set good routines, you begin focusing on the alignment of curriculum,” Chandler said. “You have to have a laser-light focus on instruction, the correct level of rigor and what is relevant to the students. Those types of things really help to improve learning.”

When he gets in on Monday, the first thing he is going to do before he turns on his computer is stop and thank Paige Drewry, the administrative assistant, who helped run the summer school program with no principal in the building.

“She really stepped up,” Chandler said. “She was instrumental in supporting the summer school this year, along with the teachers there. They did a phenomenal job.”

Then he’s going to start looking into hiring an assistant principal, and the other hires that the building has to make, such as teachers and staff. He’ll next dig into scheduling and looking at the data for universal indicators to help establish where students are and where they need to be. He’ll work on differentiated instruction, the tier system and also how they should focus instruction, along with a host of other duties before school starts in the fall.

“I can’t wait,” Chandler said. “I am just ready and eager to get school started and get this going.

“I welcome members of community and parents who haven’t been to S.P. Morton for a while to please stop by and visit,” he continued. “It is a positive place to be.

“There is a lot to be done, but we are coming back strong.”