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A new principal was only going to be hired at Washington County High School if the right person stepped up to claim the position, as naming an interim principal for one year was not out of the question.
Washington County Schools, however, found their man.
Thad Elmore, who has been in education for 19 years, has spent much of his time in Elizabethtown — most recently at Helmwood Heights Elementary and TK Stone Middle — and he’ll be taking over at WCHS as students and faculty prepare to move to the new facility.
Superintendent Robin Cochran said the district was looking to keep the ball rolling after Paul Terrell left the position last month, and she said Elmore is a true leader who can point Washington County in the right direction going forward.
“Thad will mesh well with our current principals,” she said. “His personality and the things he brings to the table will give us some fresh ideas.”
Elmore’s personality is one that leads to building relationships with everyone he meets, which he said will be his primary objective during his first year on the job.
“I really want to make contacts,” he said. “One of the first things I’m going to be doing today is contacting my administrative staff, contacting my teachers and I’ll be out and about. You may even see me out walking around neighborhoods, there’s no telling. When I’m in, I’m in.”
Cochran said she was also drawn in by Elmore’s willingness to try new things and take risks for what he feels is to the benefit of his students. According to Elmore, that passion for his students was passed on by his mother and step-father, who also spent many years working in education.
He also said he’s one to strive to be the best, no matter what the criteria is.
“I’m a traditional guy and I’m a pride guy,” Elmore said. “That involves everything from the curriculum to athletics. You’ll find out I’m really competitive when it comes to those kind of things.”
Though Elmore has put in nearly 20 years in education, he has stepped away on two occasions to focus on other ventures. He’s tried his hand at investment banking and worked as a construction coordinator for a time.
The latter is a bonus that the district wasn’t even aware of at the time of Elmore’s hiring.
“He has a construction background, where he has built residential and commercial,” Cochran said. “We didn’t know that at the time, but that will help us moving into a new building, because he knows some of the things to look for and what to expect.”
As for Elmore, he said the most important aspect of moving into the new building will be giving it a true community atmosphere.
“I want to try to make it as smooth as possible. Flexibility is important in construction, especially with a beautiful new building,” Elmore said. “I think it’s going to be excellent for not just the teachers, staff and students, but for the parents in the community.”
Cochran said hiring the man she described as organized and task-driven completes a long list of changes this summer for Washington County Schools.
With a new principal in charge at WCHS — and in a new school to boot — and several faculty and coaches making moves, Cochran said it feels like somewhat of a rebuild.
She compared this summer to five years ago, when all new principals were hired, but she said putting a new team together with new ideas can be a benefit. Other teachers and administrators receiving offers reflects well on the district as well.
“I don’t know that that’s a bad thing,” she said of the increased movement this summer. “I would like to think that the experience and the opportunities they’ve been given have made them so employable that people want them.”
Cochran also said she was pleasantly surprised with the amount of qualified applicants who showed interest in the position, with 14 applications being taken and nine interviews held.
“It’s exciting that people are wanting to come to Washington County and wanting to be a part of this team,” she said.
School opening delayed
School officials had hoped Washington County High School would be open in time for the first day of school for the 2014-15 school year, but the move will be pushed back to October.
The first day of school for students will be Thursday, Aug. 7, at the current facility, with the move being made following an extended fall break.
The fall vacation will be extended by four days to accommodate the move — Sept. 29 through Oct. 13 — with students’ first day at the new facility scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 14.
There had been talk of moving into the new facility during the winter break in December, though Cochran cited potential bad weather as one reason a December move was not preferred.
Cochran also noted that the district is confident that the certificate of occupancy and substantial completion will be finalized by September, kicking in their warranty. That also made waiting difficult.
“If we allow that to happen, then we’ve essentially eaten three months of our warranty and we don’t think that’s a smart move,” she said. “We feel like it would be better to go ahead and add the four days to fall break.”
She also said it’s a goal to get students into the best available learning environment as soon as possible.
“We think the learning environment will be more conducive than what our current facility is,” Cochran said. “If it’s ready, we need to use that building.”
An extensive rundown of the procedures surrounding the October move will be published in next week’s issue of The Sun.