Decatur High got a new principal, but Austin High and Austin Middle lost their principals to Central Office positions during a school board meeting Thursday.
In the virtual meeting, the Decatur school board approved the hiring of Leslie Russell as Decatur High's principal. She has 13 years of administrative experience, including the past year as principal at Oneonta Middle School and another 10 years at Oneonta Elementary School.
Russell starts June 1 with a salary ranging between $110,000 and $125,000, Superintendent Michael Douglas said. She replaces Johnny Berry, who was earning $112,000 when he left the district.
There were about 50 applicants for the Decatur principal’s job, Douglas said.
The transfers of Austin High Principal Melissa Scott and Austin Middle School Principal Anita Clarke will take place July 1. Scott will fill the federal programs supervisor spot that has been open since Larry Collier retired Sept. 30. Clarke is taking the supervisor of secondary curriculum spot.
Douglas said he decided to wait until the end of the school year before recommending the transfers.
“We didn’t want to create a domino effect in the middle of the school year,” Douglas said. “They leave big holes at their schools, but they provide the Central Office with much-needed help and a wealth of experience as we move forward. It’s a Catch 22 situation for our system. You want them to advance and achieve their career goals.
"I feel like anytime you are going from teacher to principal to a Central Office position like these, it’s a promotion. We’ve been drowning since those (Central Office) positions haven’t been filled.”
Douglas said he hopes to fill the two principal spots by the end of May.
Berry resigned from the top job at Decatur High in December to become superintendent at Arab City Schools. Former Superintendent Ed Nichols has served as interim principal since Jan. 1.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to work with Dr. Douglas again,” said Russell, who was a principal in Oneonta when Douglas served as superintendent there. “I want to get a feel for the teaching and classroom environment and take a look at the data as well.”
The school board also hired Leslie Russell's husband Jason as a physical education teacher but didn't assign him a school.
Douglas called Leslie Russell “a good fit for Decatur High.”
“She has a strong curriculum and instructional skills and has a way of building relationships with the faculty,” he said.
Leslie Russell also has worked as an elementary school teacher in the Oneonta and St. Clair County school systems.
She holds a master's degree in educational leadership from Alabama and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Auburn.
The board approved the following certified personnel transactions:
• Retirements: John B. Cooper, band director, Austin High, changed from May 22 to June 3; Sandra Hamley Sandlin, technology teacher, Austin Junior High; and Matthew Conner, special education teacher, and Angela Lyle Willingham, special education teacher, Oak Park Elementary.
• Resignations: Austin High: Payton Maureen Mansell, English teacher, and Kelsey Marie Williams, math teacher; Austin Junior High: Joshua Ryan Marshall, social studies teacher, Melissa G. Jarvis, art/drama teacher, and Tara Jade Thorne, Spanish teacher; Austin Middle School: Kevin Byrd, social studies teacher, Katelyn Christian Sutton-Brooks, seventh grade English language arts (ELA) teacher, and Ann J. Johnson, assistant principal; Benjamin Davis Elementary: Elizabeth Jordan Jennings, kindergarten teacher; Decatur High: Grace Ann Newton, math teacher, Virginia Johanna Roberts Folds, ELA teacher, Melissa Cameron Burney, science teacher, Jennifer Annette Nelson, social studies teacher, and Krista Ann Howell, career tech teacher; Decatur Middle School: Irene A. Howard, science teacher, Leigh Chandler Phillips, health/physical education, and Lamanda Marie King, art/drama teacher; Eastwood Elementary: Sylvia Loren Loar, fifth grade teacher; Julian Harris Elementary: Melissa Joy Simmons, second grade teacher; Leon Sheffield Elementary: Shundra T. Morris, third grade teacher, Elisa J. Coker, ESL teacher, and Heather Lynne Smith, gifted teacher; and West Decatur Elementary: Anna L. Kennedy, kindergarten teacher.
Transfers: Melissa Scott, from principal at Austin High to federal programs supervisor at Central Office, and Anita Clarke, from principal at Austin Middle School to supervisor of secondary curriculum at Central Office. Both are effective July 1.
Employment (pending the procurement of satisfactory documentation and board approval): Austin Junior High: Marion Colbert, art teacher, and Judith Park, drama teacher; Decatur City: Jason Russell, physical education; Decatur High: Leslie Russell, principal; Decatur Middle School: Brittany Clayton, science teacher, and Destinee Briskey, seventh grade math teacher.
Non-renewals: Melissa Leann Danley, Austin High; Margery Jane Slinn, Banks-Caddell; Christine Noblitt Ake and Jana Cantrell Willingham, Decatur High; Trista Lynn Rogers, Decatur Middle; Amy Michelle Coburn, Frances Nungester Elementary; Kayla IV Parker, Oak Park Elementary; Karla S. Sempsrott and Elizabeth Lee Pickle, Special Services; and Cassandralee Stewart, West Decatur Elementary.