• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

3 administrators leaving Woodford County schools

The director of special education, an assistant principal and an administrative dean are leaving their posts after the 2016-17 school year, Woodford County schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said during an interview last week. Claudia Godbey began her tenure as director of special education in Woodford County schools in June 2013. She succeeded Teresa Wasson, who retired after a 23-year career in special education. John Darnell has been an assistant principal at Woodford County High School for four years. He has been hired as principal at Bellevue High School in Northern Kentucky. Damon Stefanic, who has been administrative dean at Simmons Elementary School for three years, was hired as principal at Garth Elementary School in Scott County. "To see them go on to a head principal's position ... I hope that means that we're doing some good things here, where they're getting some good experiences, where it makes them a good-quality candidate for those vacancies," said Hawkins. During a 2015 interview, Stefanic said what he's learned and experienced as administrative dean at Simmons Elementary has been invaluable to him in his growth as an administrator. "Being here in Woodford County has given me the opportunity to expand my own understanding of the operations of schools," said Stefanic last week. As administrative dean, he learned a lot about instruction and the role of school administrators "in helping teachers facilitate a rigorous curriculum in the classroom," he said. A teacher at Simmons Elementary recently told Stefanic that she was sorry to see him leave "because you've made such an impact on Simmons." In response, he told her, "Simmons has made quite an impact on me." "So, it is with mixed emotions that I do leave," said Stefanic, who lives in Scott County with his wife of 11 years, Stephanie, and their daughters, Addy Grace and Brookelynn. "Although this is a wonderful opportunity and a great place to begin my lead role as a principal..." Darnell hopes he became a better administrator - and more importantly a better person - during his four years at WCHS. "That would be up to kids and teachers and parents to decide if I became a better administrator, but I hope so," said Darnell. His only administrative experience prior to coming to WCHS came during his year as associate director of the Governor's Scholars Program at Morehead State University, but Woodford County "is where I grew up. This is where I was able to find out who I am as an educator, who I am as a principal," Darnell said. Darnell said he would not have wanted to learn the ins and outs of being a high school administrator under anyone other than WCHS Principal Rob Akers. "From day one when I came in, he was never afraid to let me fail," said Darnell. "...He was right there with me telling me..., 'this is how you make sure this doesn't happen again.'" And Darnell credited longtime WCHS Assistant Principal Jennifer Forgy for teaching him to be a more compassionate person. "I don't think there's another person in that building that advocates for kids more than Jennifer does," he said. Darnell said he and his wife of 10 years, Megan, will miss how people in Woodford County treated their daughter, Addie, and three sons, Aiden, Oliver and Hudson, whenever they were at the high school or a school-related activity. "I hope where I'm going is as family-oriented as Woodford County. I never had to worry about having to make a decision between my family and my work," said Darnell. His love of family made becoming principal at Bellevue High School and moving to Northern Kentucky the right choice for Darnell and his family. Six-year-old Ollie has juvenile arthritis and being only "five minutes away from the absolute best pediatric rheumatology program (at Cincinnati Children's Hospital) in the nation - I would be an idiot if I didn't do that for my son." After meeting with the faculty at Bellevue High School and experiencing their passion firsthand, Darnell knew that becoming principal of the 350-students (grades six through 12) northern Kentucky school was an opportunity to "do great things for kids." While he's happy to see Darnell and Stefanic advance in their careers as school administrators, Hawkins said, "You're also sad to see them leave your district because they've been really good in their current role." When she arrived in Woodford County four years ago, Godbey said, "I want to provide the best education possible for students with disabilities." The Whitesburg, Ky., native began her career as a special education teacher at Madison Central High School before spending 10 years as director of special education for Danville Independent Schools. She was director of special education for the Kentucky School for the Blind and the Kentucky School for the Deaf for 15 months before coming to Woodford County schools. "Claudia was extremely strong in her knowledge of special education, and all of those processes and procedures and (federal) regulations," said Hawkins. "...She did a great job of relating well with others. She had a good relationship with all of the staff here at the district office, in addition to the people in the schools. "...And I know she cared about our kids and their families. So she brought some good skills to the district." Hawkins said he will use the same process that he's used in the past when hiring Godbey's successor. A screening committee of Central Office and school administrators will conduct preliminary interviews before recommending a group of finalists to Hawkins, who hopes to fill the position by mid-June. "I think we've put ourselves in position, with how we've performed and the things that we're doing (as a district) ... to draw a strong pool (of applicants) for all the (vacant administrative) positions."

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