Irvin speaks about hiring process for new administrators

Lily Naert
Contributing Writer

John

John M. Thomas retired last year after about 30 years in the district but returned temporaily to assume John E. Thomas’ duties as assistant principal while the school sought a permanent replacement. Photo by Calvin Lescher

With multiple administrators leaving after this school year, Webster Groves High School is in the middle of hiring replacements.

Assistant principal John E. Thomas retired last semester, and was temporarily replaced by John M. Thomas, and assistant principal Shiree Yeggins is moving to Kirkwood. Principal Matt Irvin expressed happiness for her because she’s going to work with a small group of students in the gifted program, which she is excited about.

Earlier this year, Munir Prince resigned from his position as Varsity football coach and assistant activities director, after a brief coaching position for the Turkey Day Game. Cliff Ice has picked up his position in the activities office for the time being. Prince will coach at East Michigan University, so Prince decided to leave Webster for this opportunity.

Dr. Irvin described the six-step process of rehiring, starting with posting the jobs for assistant principal and assistant activities director. Then Irvin sent out a survey to the staff asking what was important to them in new administrators aiming to take the survey results into account. Dr. Irvin and Dwight Kirksey then paper screened the applicants.

Irvin and Kirksey began to interview the candidates. Irvin stated that he sent 16 applicants, “Thank you for your interest in this position, describe three actions, practices, and structures or systems a high school administrator would utilize to support the mission outlined in the district’s equity statement.”

Irvin then took several of his colleagues and analyzed the applicants based on a rubric they had created to grade them.

After Zooming in with the 16 people for an interview, Irvin and the interviewing board then narrowed the field down to 12 applicants who then created presentations on themselves, passions, hobbies, prior work experience and several other things. These questions were to see how they handled themselves when put under pressure as well as their abilities to present which assessed their qualifications that cannot be written on paper.

“In addition to just answering questions about topics that administrators may have to speak to, we thought we should have them go do those things. That was the goal,” Irvin said.

Irvin said the school is very fortunate that Thomas and Yeggins made their decision to leave when they did because it was far enough in advance that the school board had time to post the jobs and find new assistant principals while being able to thoroughly judge the applicants and make the right decision.

When looking at candidates, Irvin said he looks for “Leadership experience. It can look lots of different ways. They could have been a band director; they could have run a lot of clubs at schools; they could have been assistant principal somewhere else.”

One of the new APs, Dr. Tony Gragnani, was a head principal at Columbia Hickman and runs a nonprofit Esports company, and the other new AP, Dr. Jenna Klenke-Galbreath, was a head coach and an English curriculum coordinator. Irvin also wanted to make sure that the chosen applicant could support the teachers.

When hiring new teachers, students give a lot of opinions on who they like and dislike, but for hiring administrators, most of the input comes from the teachers.
“It’s hard to get student input because students really know what teachers do, but it’s harder for them to know what principals do because they don’t see all of it,” Irvin said.

Irvin wants what is best for the school and the students when picking the replacements for the staff that is leaving.
Irvin said, “We’ve been really lucky because we’ve been able to have some really good teachers come in and join us and join the really good teachers we already have here.”
The two new APs have been board approved, and administrators are now in the process of hiring the assistant activities director.

“The new APs are both wonderful people and wonderful educators, and I know a lot of students and teachers have already missed Mr. Thomas and will miss Dr. Yeggins, but we are hoping that everyone will see that our new hires care a lot about kids and teaching and will come to care a lot about Webster Groves,” Irvin said.


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