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Tyrone Area School Board officially hires Melissa K. Russell as elementary principal

The Tyrone Area School Board voted 8-1 last evening to approve the election of Melissa K. Russell to the position of elementary principal. It is a Middle Management/Act 93 position with a 12-month assignment of 260 contract days, at the salary of $72,000 for the 2008-09 fiscal year, effective July 1, 2008.
Board member Peter Dutrow voted against the approval.
Russell was already serving as acting principal for the school year. She is a former elementary school literacy coach and coordinator of Title I and early childhood programs, a recipient of the “Outstanding Teacher” award and Shippensburg University Guest Lecturer Award in 2006-07.
Russell has been on staff at Tyrone since 1998. During her nine year tenure at the elementary school, her responsibilities have included working with parents and their children in the district’s home-based preschool parent training program, serving as a pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classroom teacher, and providing reading support to students in first through third grades as a Title I reading specialist.
In her time as a literacy coach, she coordinated, developed, and presented training sessions on effective instructional practices to staff and administrators in the Tyrone Area School District, Appalachia Intermediate Unit 8, and at conferences across Pennsylvania.
TASD Superintendent Dr. William Miller conveyed that Russell has one of the strongest knowledge bases, not just in childhood and early childhood education, but in all aspects of education.
“She’s dedicated totally to the kids and to the school district,” said Miller. “She’s a workaholic and you can find her here on any night of the week.”
He added, “In fact, many of our staff say they get emails from her at two in the morning, and that’s the way she is, and we love her for it.”
Board President Lee Stover said he listens very closely to the people who conduct the interviews for school district positions, and he agrees that Russell was the best candidate for the job.
“I’ve read all the reports they had, I read the letters of recommendation, and according to what they reported, she was clearly the outstanding candidate in the group who applied for the job,” said Stover.
“I felt very confident in supporting their recommendation.”
Russell was very emotional and also relieved after the board approved her to the elementary principal position. She said it was a “really hard decision” to go from being a classroom teacher into administration, because of her love for the kids.
“I really love what I do,” said Russell. “But I just feel as a principal I can affect many, many children, and really be there to support the staff. It’s really important to me to create a very positive school environment for the teachers and students.”
She said that staff members have approached her as she held the acting principal position and expressed their likeness of the positive environment she has already started to create in the school.
“If you look at school climate, it directly affects the teachers want to come to work,” said Russell. “It directly affects how they treat the children in the classrooms. Hopefully I can continue to create that drive and motivation in the teachers, that in the end will benefit our kids.”
Russell said it was a challenge this year being in a “temporary” position, because of the staff not knowing for sure if she would be around next year. She’s looking forward to begin planning for next year with the staff, as well as long range planning, and that the staff will know that she will be there to help carry out what’s being worked on together as a team.
“I think from the staff’s viewpoint and mine, it’s good that it’s permanent,” added Russell. “It will enable us to move forward with everything we started this year and achieve our goals.”