The Denton school district has named two new administrators to lead Harpool Middle School and the Ann Windle School for Young Children.
On Tuesday, school board members approved the hiring of Jeff Smith as principal at Harpool and Angela Hellman as principal at Ann Windle. Smith replaces Mike Vance and Hellman replaces Phyllis Hollinshead.
Vance and Hollinshead are both retiring.
Hellman stood out for the position at Ann Windle because of her 20 years of experience in early childhood education, her commitment to 3- and 4-year-olds and pre-kindergartners “and her ability to see things from a programmatic standpoint of how to build something and see it through to the end,” Superintendent Jamie Wilson said.
Hellman currently works as director of the Early Bird Learning Center in the Aubrey school district. She played an integral role in establishing that center, which offers an early childhood program for 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds, in 2011. She is certified to teach in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, certified to work with special education students ages 3 to 21 and is certified in English as a Second Language.
She has a bachelor’s degree from Texas Woman’s University, a master’s degree in special education early childhood from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree in administration and a principal certification, both from Lamar University.
Leading the Ann Windle campus for her is like coming full circle, she said. She was once a student teacher at Sullivan-Keller Early Childhood Center, which became the Ann Windle school. Hellman said her love for early childhood education began at Sullivan-Keller and her experiences as an early childhood educator and director have prepared her for this new role.
“I am so honored to even have this privilege,” she said. “I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity, and I don’t even know what’s all ahead, but I can’t wait for tomorrow to get started.”
Hellman said her main goals are getting to know everybody, building relationships, getting the school climate, culture and morale built up, and getting everyone headed in the same direction.
Vicki Sargent, the district’s executive director of elementary programs, told board members Tuesday that when Hellman spoke of early education in interviews for the position, her excitement for it was contagious.
Sargent said Hellman was one of five finalists interviewed for the position and appeared to be the best fit for the job.
“I truly believe she is the person to take that school to the next level,” Sargent said of Hellman.
Hollinshead, Hellman’s predecessor, could not be reached for comment.
Smith currently serves as an assistant principal at Harpool Middle School and has been at the campus since it opened in 2008.
Families and supporters of Smith being hired as the school’s new principal attended Tuesday’s meeting wearing T-shirts with “Team Smith” and a longhorn logo, the Harpool school mascot, on them.
During his education career, Smith has served as a seventh-grade science teacher and a head basketball coach.
The Denton High School graduate has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in educational administration, both from UNT. He also has life and Earth science and principal certifications.
Administrators said what made Smith a standout for the job was the relationships he’s built with students, teachers and parents.
“He truly knows what it means to cultivate support around a vision and support of teachers in the classroom and the students doing their hard work to achieve the highest levels,” said David Hicks, the district’s executive director of secondary programs.
He said the board is confident that with Smith’s relationship-building experience, he’ll be able to lead Harpool to even greater heights.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Smith told the board that being selected to lead Harpool is a big responsibility that he doesn’t take lightly.
On Wednesday, he said his feelings about being named principal are similar to what he felt when he got married and when his first child was born.
“It’s a lot of emotions,” Smith said. “You’re excited, you’re happy, you’re thankful of all the people that helped you, but at the same time, you’re nervous. It’s a life-changing experience.”
He said he looks forward to the new challenge of the job and impacting students’ lives at a greater level.
He said in being part of the current administrative team at Harpool, the staff is like his family and they trust one another, which will make for a smooth transition.
Smith said he was thankful to his parents who raised him with Christian values and ethics that prepared him for this role.
Vance, Smith’s predecessor, said he intends to retire sometime early next year and that Smith will be taking charge as principal at the start of the spring semester in January.
Vance leaves Harpool after 32 years in education, 26 of which were spent with the Denton school district.
He said it’s been rewarding to have the opportunity to work with students all these years and have “a part in helping them grow up and become successful adults.”
The Denton High alumnus said being able to give back to the community as an educator has been a blessing.
He said he’s happy to see Smith — a member of his administrative team who also worked with him as an administrator at Strickland Middle School — succeed him as Harpool principal.
“I’m sure Mr. Smith will take this foundation and take it on to further heights we can’t even imagine right now,” Vance said. “He’s been with me now 10 of the last 11 years. It’s almost like a father watching your kid grow up. I just know that he’ll do a great job for the kids here.”
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .