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New Junior High Principal Ready For New Role

by Lynn Kutter | June 9, 2021 at 9:50 a.m.
Morris

FARMINGTON -- The new principal for Farmington Junior High School is coming in with a plan for her first 100 days on the job.

Teri Morris presently is assistant principal for Searcy High School and has been involved in every level of education for the school since July 2006. The past year, Morris also has supervised the high school's Google-based virtual school program, called Lions Online, which served 424 students.

Farmington School Board voted to hire Morris as the new junior high principal at its May 24 meeting. Her contract starts July 1, and Morris will replace Joe McClung, who is being promoted to Farmington assistant superintendent.

In an email, Morris said she has dedicated her life to serving students.

"All decisions come through that lens for me," said Morris, who has about 29 years of education experience. "I ask one question: Is it in the best interest of my students, and does it serve them? The most rewarding work that I currently do and will ever do is serving students, school, district and community, and I am excited to continue that work with such amazing students, along with such dedicated and committed professionals at Farmington Junior High School."

Morris' application for the vacancy included her resume, a 100-day plan as the principal of Farmington Junior High and her leadership philosophy.

In the 100-day plan, she said her goal is to be an "integrative leader" who serves students, teachers, district administrators and the community.

Her plan has three steps to outline a "clear and focused direction" for the beginning stages of entering the junior high building as its new principal.

Step 1 is the time period from when she starts work to when the staff report for the new school year. Step 2 is from the staff report date to the first day of school. Step 3 is from the first day of school to the end of the first quarter.

Goals under Step 1 include plans to spend as much time in the building as possible and create an open-door policy for students and staff, meet with district administration to discuss school, improvements, data and direction; survey staff for their expectations from her; assist in hiring if needed; meet with staff on the building budget; and learn about handbook and discipline policies and daily practices.

Step 2 goals include leading professional development for the staff, meeting with collaborative teams to continue relationships, meet with community members and begin to build one-on-one relationships with each staff member.

After students arrive on campus, Morris said she wants to be visible every day and be proactive in building relationships with students, wants to serve in all duties and have a face-to-face conversation with each staff member each day.

In her leadership philosophy statement, Morris said she considers herself a servant-leader.

"I started my career serving in education through teaching students," Morris said. "My love for teaching and learning came to me very early in my life, and leadership came through my desire to serve students, and my desire to see students succeed in various capacities, and the joy that brought me."

She said the keys to building a successful school and district are relationships with each other and collaborating with colleagues, students and teachers.

According to Morris' resume, she has a bachelor of science degree in education from the University of Central Arkansas, a master's degree in educational leadership from Harding University, a specialist's degree in educational leadership from Arkansas State University and a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Arkansas Tech University.

Her doctorate degree addressed mental health issues that students are facing today and are dealing with in public schools.

According to the administration office, the district received 24 applications for the principal position and brought in four candidates to be interviewed in person.

In addition to Morris, the other top candidates were Leonard Ogden, currently assistant principal at Farmington Junior High; Kristen Scott, assistant professor at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith; Tom Bennett, data and research coordinator/performance coach/finance manager with Arkansas Leadership Academy and the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas.

Those on the interview committee were Superintendent Jon Laffoon, Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Pinkerton, middle school Principal Julia Williams, junior high registrar Jessica Flanagan and junior high teachers Courtney Howard, Misty Bailey and Jaime Pair.

Pinkerton last week said Morris has a lot of different experiences that will help as the junior high school moves forward. For example, she said the school is hoping to add Project Lead the Way courses to the curriculum as well as more STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) courses.

According to Morris resume, she has experience with budgets, technology, staff and student supervision, curriculum implementation and well as being involved in collaborative and supervisory roles on the district level for Searcy School District.

"We think she'll fit in very well with our staff," Pinkerton said, adding Morris already is connecting with the district for a smooth transition to Farmington.

In addition to Morris' position in Searcy, she also taught English, oral communications and drama at Cabot High from 1997 to 2006, and taught English and humanities at Oak Grove High School in North Little Rock from 1992-1997.

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