• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Caudill leaving Simmons Elementary after 8 years

PRINCIPAL LARRY CAUDILL has been helping fifth-graders in Jennifer Page's class with their reading every morning this school year. He said every administrator and special areas teacher at Simmons Elementary was assigned a class, where they spend 45 minutes each morning supporting a school-wide focus: Literacy is the Key. (Photo by Bob Vlach)

Longtime Simmons Elementary School Principal Larry Caudill has accepted an offer to become principal at Lexington Traditional Magnet School (LTMS) in Fayette County.

"After a lot of conversation with my wife, we felt like it was an appropriate time to go ahead and make the transition," said Caudill last Friday, April 29. Still, he acknowledged, "This has been a horribly difficult decision to make. ".This is an incredible school. This school has a unique spirit about it. These people that work here - they give more than just what a normal employee would give to their career, to their job. These folks offer their hearts and their souls to every one of these kids each and every day. Their efforts only fuel my efforts." The relationships that Caudill has built with teachers and students during his tenure at Simmons Elementary, which began in the 2008-09 school year, made it especially difficult for him to make his decision to leave. He takes pride in knowing his students and their families - and their stories. What Caudill learned from his teachers growing up in a small south-central Ohio town helped him understand how educators can shape a child's future and open his or her eyes to the possibilities, he said. So amidst the ever-changing world of accountability systems and how academic successes are measured, Caudill always wanted to provide students with meaningful opportunities and experiences so they could "see a world beyond Versailles, a world that's open to them," he said. Coming to Simmons Elementary was also an opportunity to serve as the principal at the school where his son, Dillon, would spend his elementary years. "It's a special thing. It's very personal . Parents (who are not educators) don't get that opportunity," said Caudill, who has worked in education for 19 years. "I can't tell you how rewarding that (opportunity) was for me . to have those interactions with him throughout those school years," he added. Caudill was never afraid to have fun with his faculty while celebrating the successes of their students at monthly pep rallies and on many other occasions as well. He wanted students to know "school is purposeful fun. And we learn a lot when we're having fun." Caudill knows Simmons Elementary was where he needed to be this school year. He also feels really good about the school's future. "Whoever comes into this chair is coming into a good situation," he said. Caudill views returning to Fayette County Public Schools - where he started his career - and becoming principal at LTMS as an opportunity to gain experience as a middle school principal, which he said will help fully prepare him to one day become an administrator at the district level. "I feel like it's an important step for me in realizing my ultimate dream of becoming a district-wide leader at some point," said Caudill. As one of the largest districts in Kentucky, Fayette County Public Schools offers a wealth of opportunity for professional growth and career advancement, Caudill said. Even so, Woodford County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins's influence on his leadership style over the last eight years "will forever be a part of how I lead, and I'm grateful for that," he said. Hawkins, who became superintendent when Caudill arrived at Simmons, said he always appreciated Caudill's "heart for kids." This passion fueled a desire to always provide students with the best possible opportunities and experiences, said Hawkins. "They know that he cares about them. And when you think about a person leading your buildings - you want the kids to know that person's there for them and is trying to do whatever they can to provide them the best education possible," said Hawkins. Not afraid of taking on "a big challenge," Caudill said he's looking forward to bringing consistent leadership to LTMS - a middle school that has had five principals in the last six school years. "It's not going to be an easy job by any means," he acknowledged, "but I see it as an opportunity to advance my career. It's a challenge that just sort of spoke to me." Caudill was an assistant principal at Woodford County High School for three years before being hired at Simmons. He began his career as a special education teacher at Tates Creek Middle School. Caudill and his wife, Tracy, will celebrate their 20th anniversary in July. Council wants to select new principal by end of month If all goes as anticipated, a new principal will be selected to lead Simmons Elementary School by the end of this month, Woodford County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said. A survey will allow parents, teachers and other stakeholders to give their input on the qualities and characteristics they'd like in a new Simmons Elementary principal, according to Hawkins. Under state law, Hawkins will chair the SBDM council that will hire Larry Caudill's successor. Using the survey results as a guide, the council will begin the process of developing interview questions before interviews with principal candidates are conducted. As of last week, 16 applications had been received, and additional applications will be accepted until this coming Friday, Hawkins said. Two meetings were scheduled this week - Tuesday, May 3, and Thursday, May 5, - so interested persons can talk to council members about what they want in the next principal at Simmons. The council has set a goal of choosing a new principal before June 1.

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