In 2013, a trio of new leaders at Marshall Schools
MARSHALL – As elementary students begin reporting for the first day of school next week, three new administrative faces will be eagerly waiting to greet them.
While newly-hired West Side Principal Jeremy Williams is well-known in the district, having served in a variety of roles for 13 years, Park Side Principal Darci Love is new to Marshall Public Schools, though she is quickly developing relationships with people throughout the community.
“I was elated and so honored that they selected me as the new principal,” Love said. “It’s such a great opportunity that I haven’t been able to quit talking about it. The faculty and the community of Marshall have been so kind and welcoming. My husband and I feel like we’re already part of the community. Everyone has been so friendly.”
Love and Williams were hired to succeed interim Principal Bill Swope, who assumed duties shortly after the resignation of Principal Heidi Critchley.
Swope took over the third week in September.
“Heidi had left the week before, I think,” Swope said. “Everybody is under contract, so it’s a tough time to try and hire someone.”
Swope, who was officially retired after serving in principal positions for 33 years, proved to be an ideal interim.
“I’ve served the Marshall district for 28 years,” he said. “I also spent five years as principal at Atwater. I said I’d help out. I knew the system and that it was just transitional. I wasn’t making any changes or rocking the boat. I just put out a lot of fires, dealing with student issues.”
The one change Swope did advocate for, as did other school personnel, was to hire two principals instead of one.
“It’s important for a principal to be in a building full-time because that way he or she gets to know the kids well, gets in and out of the classrooms and is readily-available for staff,” Swope said.
Administration and school board members were also in favor and took action to make it happen.
“It’s much-needed,” Swope said. “We’ve got 870 kids between the two buildings, which is 100 more than the high school, with no assistant principal. And kids’ needs are far greater today than they were when I retired. That’s why they need somebody full-time in each building.”
Moving forward, Swope believes both new principals will work hard to see that staff and students are as successful as possible.
“That’s the bottom line,” he said. “I think Darci is going to fit in extremely well at Park Side. She has a nice personality and she has a good elementary background. And Jeremy will be solid at West Side.”
Succeeding Williams as the new assistant principal at MHS will be Travis Frazee.
Love grew up in Huron, S.D., and attended college there as well. It was during that time she found that education was her true passion.
“I first started out in college going into law or along those lines,” she said. “As I was going to college, I worked at the middle school as a lunch room supervisor a couple of hours a day. The principal there said, ‘You are really good with kids. You should go into education.'”
The comments got Love thinking and the decision to pursue education degrees followed.
“I started taking a couple of courses in the education area, then took a couple of social studies classes,” Love said. “I learned how educators influence countless people.”
One professor in particular had a positive impact on Love’s teaching career.
“This person was incredible,” she said. “When I started as an eighth-grade history teacher, I tried to tell stories like he did, to get the students engaged about our past and how that is applicable today.”
Love taught eighth-grade social studies for 10 years before getting her master’s degree in education and technology.
“I truly believe that God has a plan and that he’s been working in my life for a long time,” Love said.
Love spent the last seven years serving as the curriculum director for the Huron district. While Love had a lot of reasons to stay in Huron, she was also drawn to Marshall.
“Marshall is a very progressive community,” she said. “The college brings a different dynamic.”
Having lived in Huron her entire life, Love had mixed feelings at first about moving away. But now, Love is excited to begin a new chapter in her life. She’s hoping that her past experiences will guide her as well as benefit the students.
“I truly believe that early childhood education is so critical,” Love said. “Unfortunately, the years that are most influential, we miss those opportunities. But we have to do what we can to make the best of it.”
Love is also a strong advocate for collaboration.
“What I appreciate about communities the size of Marshall is that you have the opportunity to collaborate with others,” she said. “You can wear a lot of different hats. The value of collaboration is so critical.”
Love believes education is missing out when doors are closed and people do things independently. For that reason, she has already laid the foundation for developing professional relationships in the district, including one with Williams.
“We’ll be working together in our new roles. I’m looking forward to that.”
Williams grew up in the Russell area and attended college at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
“I first went to school for elementary education,” Williams said. “Then I picked up a Spanish major. I got my master’s in education and my administration license at St. Mary’s.”
Williams’ first job was teaching Spanish at Marshall High School.
“I wasn’t sure about teaching at the secondary level, but I loved it,” he said.
In the spring of 2007, Williams started at Marshall East Campus Learning Alternative (MECLA).
“I was dean of students for one quarter and then assistant principal that fall,” Williams said.
The last two years Williams has served as the assistant principal to Brian Jones at MHS.
“It was a different role, but I also loved it,” Williams said. “I got to work with Brian. He’s an awesome mentor. He has a leadership style I’ll take with me.”
Though he was satisfied with his role at the high school, Williams began pondering whether or not he should apply for the elementary principal position.
“I had been thinking about it since Heidi left,” he said. “I decided to apply. They did a full search, with outside candidates, too.”
Williams noted that the interview process was a little more intimidating since he knew some of the administrators and teachers on the selection team.
“It’s much more difficult to interview with people you know,” Williams said. “I don’t know the elementary teachers as well, but it was two interviews back-to-back. One was with the teachers and one was with the administration right afterwards.”
When he was offered the position, Williams said he was excited about the opportunity. Though he has been at the secondary level for some time, he feels that just being in the district will give him additional insight for his new role.
“I can just hit the ground running,” Williams said. “I have a good idea of what the district mission is, in developing each student. And I know where the students are going after they leave West Side. That familiarity is important.”
While there will be challenges ahead, Williams is optimistic about the experience for everyone.
“My daughter will be a third-grader this year and she thinks it’s pretty cool that I’m the principal,” Williams said. “It’ll be a big challenge because it is different from what I’ve known. But I’m excited to get to work with the kids and I’m excited to meet the staff.”
Frazee will be the new assistant principal at MHS.
“It’s been going great,” Frazee said at staff orientation on Friday. “I’ve been learning a lot. There’s a lot of newness. We’re new to the community and new to the school. There’s some similarities between here and Worthington, where I’m from. But I’m really excited to get the kids in the building and start those relationships with the kids.”
After a brief teaching job in Litchfield, Frazee returned to Worthington. After substitute teaching for a short time, he was offered a teaching position at Worthington High School.
“I taught there for 11 years,” he said. “I taught special education.”
Frazee believes his experience working with students who have emotional disorders will give him the background necessary to meet student needs at MHS.
“I think it’s good preparation for this job here,” Frazee said. ” I think the approach has went away from where you just accept that it’s the way it is to trying to help kids, to teach them some coping skills and strategies to be able to handle themselves in difficult situations.”
Frazee said he foresees conflict resolution as a huge part of his new job.
“I’m not big into consequences and punishment,” he said. “I’m into teaching kids. I’m still a teacher, just in a different role. I want kids to be able to handle themselves. You can give a kid a negative consequence for something, but that doesn’t teach them what they need to do. That just teaches them what happens if you do what you did.”
While there are a good number of duties that Frazee will be responsible for, he feels he’s up for the task.
“There are quite a few responsibilities, as far as duties go, so I’ll be learning a lot of those, basically, the procedures and the process that you follow in doing all those things,” Frazee said. “There’s lots of newness, but I’m excited for it.”