This summer, (UES) principal Kim Jackson will say goodbye to her home away from home—as well as her actual home—when she leaves Moorestown for Washington, D.C.
After three years at the helm of the district’s second largest school, the departure is bittersweet for Jackson, who is relocating because of her husband’s job.
“I’m sad to go … It’s all about family is the reason why I’m going,” she said. “But in a perfect world, I’d be able to take the UES with me, and that would be awesome.”
Jackson has spent 8 1/2 years with the district, starting out as principal at , followed by a stint as director of elementary education for the district, before ending up at UES.
Since UES—with a student population of nearly 1,000—represents such a dramatic shift for third-grade students coming from “cozy little community schools,” Jackson said one of her primary focuses as principal has been to create “a sense of community.”
“We’ve really tried to make three small learning environments for the students so that our school wouldn’t seem so big and so overwhelming to students as they enter,” she said. “So we really tried hard over these last few years to make it just feel smaller.”
Susan Powell, the district’s director of personnel, will take over for Jackson when she steps down July 31, and the two women are already working on a transition plan that involves meetings with staff and parents, as well as a thorough review of the school’s policies and procedures.
Powell has been with the district on and off for the last 14 years, starting off as the assistant principal at in 1998. In 2002, she took a few years off to stay at home with her children. She came back on a part-time basis initially, and then returned full-time as math supervisor in 2007, before transitioning into personnel.
With more than 20 years experience in education—she started out as a high school math teacher—Powell said she’s looking forward to getting back into a school building.
“Absolutely,” she said when asked if she preferred being in a school versus administration. “There’s nothing like being in a building with the energy of the kids and the energy of the teachers. That’s the fun part of education … I just think it’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s a fun challenge.”
Superintendent John Bach called Powell a “veteran educator” in a recent statement announcing her as the next UES principal.
“Knowing the history of the Upper Elementary School leadership prior to Mrs. Jackson’s arrival necessitated the selection of a highly skilled, experienced leader,” Bach wrote. “Given these stakes for the long-term greater good of the building and the district, it was evident to me that only an individual possessing the right skill, temperament, and knowledge could build upon the success created by Mrs. Jackson.”
While both women acknowledged change, particularly changing principals, is always difficult for everyone, Jackson said she believes school staff and parents are comforted by the fact that Powell is in-house and familiar with both the district and the UES in particular.
After the last several years working as an administrator, overseeing roughly 600 district employees, Powell said she’s looking forward to once again having a direct line to the most important element in education: the students.
“In any position in education, it has to be about the kids, and I think once you step into a supervisor role or administrative role at central office, you’re a little bit more removed from the kids,” she said. “So this is a wonderful opportunity to get back and actually live in a building with the kids and the teachers and really get down to what’s important.”
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