Leadership changes abound at start of Russellville school year
By Jim Turner

Posted on August 2, 2017 12:40 PM

My association with the Russellville schools began in September 1951 when I entered kindergarten. Through 13 years as a student, 9 years as a teacher at Russellville High School, and every year since as a journalist covering the school system, I have been keenly aware of what was going on in and around what we always called “the city schools,” although a number of the students like me have been farm kids.

With that backdrop in place, I hereby declare: I’ve never seen as much change in the leadership of Russellville Independent Schools in a single year as has occurred between the start of the 2016-17 school year and the year now beginning.

The Year That Is (as opposed to the Year that Was) begins with a different superintendent, director of pupil personnel, high school principal, elementary school principal, assistant principals at the senior high, junior high and elementary levels, athletic director, boys basketball coach and softball coach. Add to that unfulfilled vacancies for a new girls basketball coach and a new baseball coach.

Gone are:

Superintendent Leon Smith (retired)

DPP Claudia Crump (retired)

Russellville JR/SR High Principal Kim McDaniel (now DPP)

Stevenson Elementary Principal Lisa White (promoted to central office)

RHS SR High Assistant Principal Brandon Blake (moved to another school system)

RHS JR High Assistant Principal Jennifer Myers (now elementary principal in Glasgow)

Stevenson Assistant Principal Sandra Light

Athletic Director/Girls Basketball Coach/Softball Coach Calvin Head (now a teacher in Bowling Green)

Head Boys Basketball Coach Phil Todd (retired)

Head Baseball Coach Blake Crabtree (moved to another school system)

In their place:

Superintendent Bart Flener

DPP Kim McDaniel

RHS Principal Ben Bruni

Stevenson Principal Robin Cornelius

SR High Assistant Principal Cameron Jackson

JR High Assistant Principal Carlos Quarles

Stevenson Assistant Principal Linda Caudle

Athletic Director Kyle Yates

Head Boys Basketball Coach Rex Booth

Head Girls Basketball Coach ?

Head Softball Coach Ryan Davenport

Head Baseball Coach ?

The LoJo

If I were a casual observer, I would think something is terribly wrong in the school system to cause so many people to leave in the same year.

I’m not a casual observer.

I see no imminent cataclysmic collapse of the school system. Instead, it’s merely a series of events that all happened at the same time.

Superintendent Smith, DPP Crump and Coach Todd have well earned their retirements, as principals McDaniel and White have their promotions.

Jennifer Myers could not have been a principal here had her husband, football coach/transportation director John Myers, been named superintendent. She was offered an attractive principalship near her family, and her answer couldn’t wait until Russellville selected a superintendent.

The most painful loss because it was unexpected may have been that of Coach Head, who had been considered a God-send for the school system. He’s a bright young man who was good with the administration, faculty, students, parents, press and community. Many of us had no clue he was considering leaving.

I don’t know the other three (Blake, Light and Crabtree) well enough to comment. Even though I write sports, I unfortunately never heard from Coach Crabtree.

The LoJo

Add to the changes that this is either the last full or partial year of the area technology center moving from the campus of RHS to the campus of Logan County High School. The “trade school,” “vocational school,” “technology center” has been a part of the big picture on the Clarksville Road for half a century.

Things change. Life happens.

The LoJo

There are two factors that are “mitigating circumstances,” which give us reason for a positive outlook.

First, some key leaders are still in place. At the top of that list is the board of education. Although we lost a great board member in the death of retired teacher/band director David Corbin, this is an effective board that has found the right people before to make Russellville Independent Schools worthy of respect. As long as James Milam is chairman of the board, Russellville schools will be on solid footing.

Also still in place is John Myers, a highly talented coach and an administrator. Joining him are Band Director Brian Brown, Counselor Rex Booth (see boys basketball), librarian Lauren Fynboe, and academic coaches and advisors, including Jennifer Rogers, Tina Shoemake, Tonya Mullen and Donna Wilkerson. Office workers Mary Celsor, Becky Faenza, Jodi Stuart and Juliana Link are indispensable. Art teacher Chris Holloman seems to be part of every big endeavor.  I’m sure there are others I am forgetting.

Second, the newly assembled leadership group comes with impressive credentials. I’ve been aware of Superintendent Flener, Principal Bruni and Assistant Principal Quarles for many years. They’ve been successes wherever they’ve been. In case you missed them earlier, read the descriptions of Assistant Principals Jackson and Quarles and Athletic Director Yates provided by Bruni on The LoJo at http://www.theloganjournal.com/Stories.aspx?Article=news862 and http://www.theloganjournal.com/Stories.aspx?Article=features631 .

Principal Cornelius and Coach Davenport are the only homegrown members of the new leadership team, although it would be no surprise if another one, Tyler Meacham, becomes head baseball coach. Leon Smith was completely sold on Robin Cornelius when he named her interim principal at Stevenson to replace Lisa White. See that story on The LoJo at http://www.theloganjournal.com/Stories.aspx?Article=news767&Search=Robin%20Cornelius .

Ryan Davenport is a hard-working coach and educator. He loves the students and they love him. He will do well as the softball coach.

Booth’s work ethic and effectiveness as counselor has drawn praise as he returns to head basketball coaching. In fact, many of those who are in new leadership roles—Flener, Bruni, Jackson, Quarles and Yates—are former high school athletics coaches. The leadership and organizational skills they mastered as coaches should be assets in their new roles.

The LoJo

I would be remiss not to commend Leon Smith, Kim McDaniel and Calvin Head for the way they got the story/stories out about what was happening with Russellville schools.

Leon, who brought stability to the revolving door at the superintendent’s office, was the most open superintendent I’ve ever worked with. He included me in the list of those to be emailed along with the faculty and staff whenever something was newsworthy. The most impressive thing about Leon Smith to me was that he was never impressed with himself. The story was never about him.

Kim was wonderful in her reports about what students at RHS (I have a lot of trouble saying RJSHS) were doing and achieving. She made every activity—from sports to whatever—equally important, and she included lots of names, which I believe are vitally important for student (and parent) self-esteem. I ran her newsletter weekly, and it was indeed a letter filled with news.

Although he was head coach of two sports himself, Calvin treated every sport with respect and tried to get the word out what they were doing and achieving. I could always depend on him for timely articles, often with pictures.

I am grateful to all three of them, as the readers of The Logan Journal should be as well.

I look forward to more of the same from Mr. Flener, Mr. Bruni and Mr. Yates.


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