• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Bell named interim principal at WCHS

DR. JAKE BELL, a former principal at Henry Clay High School, where he won two state championships as its football coach, has been hired as the interim principal at Woodford County High School. In the 14 years since he’s been retired from Henry Clay, Bell said he’s worked all but about a year. Pictured with Bell are WCHS assistant principals Kevin Faris, left, and Jennifer Forgy. (Photo by Bill Caine)

A former Fayette County school administrator has been named interim principal at Woodford County High School, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said. Dr. Jake Bell, who also coached at Henry Clay High School, will serve as WCHS interim principal during the 2018-19 school year, which begins Thursday, Aug. 9.

“He’s great with people. He’s well-respected. And he’s got a lot of different types of experiences too,” said Hawkins of Bell.

In addition to serving as principal (2000-04) and winning two state titles while coaching football and teaching biology at Henry Clay (1969 to 1992), Bell was interim principal at Fayette County’s Southern Middle School (2016-17), interim athletic director at Eastern Kentucky University (2004-05), athletic director at Georgetown College (1997-2000), and an SEC basketball official.

Becoming a school principal gives Bell an opportunity to work closely with students again, and that excites him. “I like the interaction. I like the energy. I like the communications. I like the athletics,” he said.

“I’m looking for leadership in teachers, in the staff and the kids. I’m looking for student-leaders, and I feel like I need to lead that by example… I’m coaching the school now, really,” continued Bell. “And morale is so important. And honesty is so important. And communication is so important.”

Hawkins said he considered two candidates for the interim position and met with the WCHS site-based council Tuesday before Bell was hired last week.

“He’s been through this before and he understands what those responsibilities (as an interim principal) are,” said Hawkins. “And then it’s also my job to sit down with him and kind of go through what our expectations are and give him that background that he needs to go in and be successful.”

Bell served as interim school superintendent in Nicholas County last year, which Hawkins said allowed them to interact with one another during monthly superintendent meetings. “I wouldn’t say that I knew him extremely well before this” process, “… that’s not the case, but I’ve known of him,” added Hawkins.

Hawkins said Bell, who told him he always loved being a high school principal, expressed interest in the interim job at WCHS through a third party. “There was a genuine excitement about possibly doing this,” Hawkins said.

Bell met with outgoing WCHS Principal Rob Akers, who has accepted a job with the Kentucky Department of Education, and his assistant principals during a visit to the high school last Thursday.

“The school is in good shape,” said Bell. “Academic-wise and personnel-wise, Rob’s done a really great job.” He now wants to help WCHS continue moving forward.

“I want the school to keep the momentum going,” said Bell. And he also wants to focus on safety, which he described as his No. 1 initiative.

“I don’t want anything to happen here under my watch” that puts WCHS in the news, said Bell, 76.

Bell, who earned his doctorate in education at the University of Kentucky and both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees in education at Georgetown College, officially begins his duties at WCHS Aug. 1.

Bell has two children and six grandchildren, and has been married to his wife, Cathy, a former principal, for 22 years.

The WCHS site-based council will likely begin its search for a permanent successor to Akers in March, said Hawkins. He said that will provide time to ensure a very thorough hiring process in order to “get the best person possible in that position.”

“We’ll want to determine (as a council) how we’re going to get feedback from teachers, students, parents in terms of qualities and characters that they want to see in the principal,” Hawkins said. He said he’s very optimistic a good pool of candidates will apply for the position because WCHS is a high-performing school in a great location.

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