The school system has officially hired four new principals to fill the positions created by Warren County Middle School principal Betty Wood’s move to the central office, and the retirement of Warren County High School executive principal James Bennett, Eastside Elementary principal Doug Reed, and Hickory Creek principal Donald Prater.
Carol Prater will be taking the reins at Eastside, Vickie Dodd will assume administrative duties at Hickory Creek, Gerald Tidwell will take the helm at WCMS, and current Indiana resident Anthony Cassel will take on the executive principal position at WCHS.
The school system’s assistant director for teaching/learning, Bobby Cox, formally announced the selections at the School Board meeting Thursday night, lauding the retiring principals for their dedication.
“They have all been dedicated educators for many years in our system,” Cox said. “The job of principal, I feel, is one of the most difficult jobs that we have in our system, especially with a middle school and a high school the size of ours.”
Cox lauded the selection committee for the job they did, saying they chose candidates who would serve the system now and well into the future.
Cox then introduced the new employees.
“I’d like to start out with Betty Wood,” Cox said. “Of course Betty needs no introduction in Warren County. She’s obviously a tremendous educator at Warren County Middle School, but the job came open here with Bonnie Collier’s retirement and she agreed to take it.”
The job came with a new title, professional development/system evaluation, and some new responsibilities.
“Mrs. Wood will be taking over for Mrs. Collier on July 1 in professional development as well as our new evaluation system. We’ve restructured a few things and have asked her to head that up,” Cox continued, noting Wood’s exemplary performance at the Middle School during her tenure. “The Middle School’s loss is our gain here at the central office.”
School Board member Scott Holmes agreed.
“I wish you could hear the comments we hear about you,” Holmes said.
“I hope they’re good,” Wood quipped. “It’s not like I spend time hanging off the side of a cliff or anything,” she added, to general laughter, referring to a recent photo in the Southern Standard.
Cox then moved on to Dodd.
“She has been the instructional coordinator at Hickory Creek and has done an outstanding job,” Cox said, noting the progress Hickory Creek has made academically, moving off a target school status to the top 10 percent in the state for AYP. “We feel like she will be an outstanding principal to continue that work.
“Our next school principal’s position is Mr. Reed’s job at Eastside,” Cox said, noting Reed’s excellent service as a long time educator in the county and then moving into his replacement’s qualifications. “Carol Prater, a teacher at Centertown, has a wide range of experience, not only in education but in business. She brings that to the table. Carol will be taking over for Mr. Reed at Eastside and I know she will do an outstanding job as a very balanced educator, and I’m sure she will lead Eastside to great heights.”
Cox then moved on to Wood’s replacement, and the challenge that job represents.,
“The Middle School is grades 6-8, close to 900 students, second largest school in our system,” Cox said. “Mr. Tidwell will be taking over for Mrs. Wood and he brings a wealth of knowledge to this job, a wide knowledge of data, which just blew us away at his interview. He’s got leadership experience at the high school level as a principal, he’s also got elementary school experience as a principal. We’re excited that he’s going to be principal at the Middle School.”
Tidwell acknowledged the reputation of his predecessor.
“I’ve been told many times I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” Tidwell said with a big grin, at which point Wood put on a comedic frown and kicked one of her sandals at him, causing the crowd to erupt in laughter. “I’ll just tell you, I can’t fill her shoes,” Tidwell continued when the laughter subsided. “She’s done such an incredible job. In studying what they’ve done it’s unreal that somebody could lead like she has. I am thrilled to get the opportunity to take over this job and I thank you for it. I’m thankful that she’s going to be a resource for me and I’ll do my best to sustain what she has done over the years.”
Cox then introduced Cassel to the assembled crowd.
“Lastly we have our high school principal,” Cox said. “Obviously Mr. Bennett, with his retirement, is leaving an 1,800 student high school with roughly 125 teachers. A large place to manage. And like I said, a principal’s job is probably the toughest job out there. When you’re talking 1,800 teenagers in one place in a confined environment, that is very difficult.
“Tony Cassel had agreed to take the position,” Cox said. “Tony is from outside Tennessee, he is currently with Wawasee high school in Indiana, so he has driven about eight hours to be with us today. He also brings experience and knowledge of being a principal. In the interview he just wowed us with his educational knowledge and foundation. We’re very excited that Tony decided to apply.”
Cassel said he and his family are looking forward to making the move to Warren County.
“I appreciate the opportunity,” Cassel said. “It was good to be down here today and meet the staff. My family is really excited about coming down, my son has already texted me to ask me if I’ve taken pictures of the school. We are hitting the road running. I’ll be here several days in June. We’re coming in right around July 4th time.
“So I’m just steaming ahead and learning how to talk properly,” Cassell said, to general laughter. “I’m just sayin’,” he added with a grin.