By Jaime Thomas
Less than three weeks after Granville Principal Jim Donnelly announced his resignation, the board of education found and approved a replacement for him.
Camille Harrelson, who is currently serving as director of special education for the district, will be the new junior/senior high school principal effective Aug. 1 of this year with a probationary period until July 30, 2016.
Though the district would typically advertise the position and interview multiple candidates, District Superintendent Mark Bessen immediately approached Harrelson for the job once it opened.
“Last year we did an extensive search for an elementary principal, and she was in the top two. We knew she was somebody we were interested in for the future,” he said. Harrelson sat with 27 staff members from grades seven to 12, who questioned her extensively on her ability to take over as principal.
Bessen said he approached the board of education about the prospect and though some members expressed concern that they weren’t seeing who else was “out there,” Bessen said most were excited to welcome Harrelson.
“She’s worked well with many people in the faculty, she’s worked well with parents and she’s worked well with the administration.”
On her end, Harrelson said she too is looking forward to her new responsibilities.
“I do feel very honored they feel confident enough in me to nominate me for the position,” she said, adding that the district was concerned with the high turnover rate in administration, but she plans on sticking around for a while.
“I really look forward to a really long career here in Granville and working with staff and administration and the community in making it a great school for our children,” she said.
A native of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Harrelson earned her bachelor’s degree in special education at the College of Charleston, her master’s in education and elementary education from Coastal Carolina University and an administration degree from the College of Saint Rose.
She is in her 17th year of education and has been an administrator for seven years. Before that, she was a special education teacher in Argyle and Greenwich, so she is familiar with regional education.
“I feel very comfortable in a rural setting; I think the kids are great. That’s one of the things I like so much about Granville—the family and community and educators in this district really put the kids first,” she said. Both she and Bessen believe her special education and intervention background will be in asset in her role as principal.
Bessen said she has already been a part of major initiatives the high school is pursuing.
“This way it will be a seamless transition and we won’t skip a beat about what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. Harrelson said she already keeps the lines of communication very open with school staff and aims to increase communication and student achievement.
“My main focus and goal is to work as hard as I can for children. This is my passion. I love to work with kids; I always have. This is the path I’m meant to have, so I’m really excited,” she said.
She said she plans to use numbers and data to identify problem areas and push the students forward.
“I want to find out where they fell short and keep addressing that,” she said, naming social problems like bullying, safety and drugs, as well as math scores and advanced placement courses as areas on which to focus.
Bessen said she has already jumped into these issues and thinks she will keep up the momentum in the school.
“She’s already taking the bull by the horns and trying to get things going,” he said.
Harrelson, who currently lives in Glens Falls with her husband and 8-year-old son, will have to move to the district within the next three years as part of her contract, but said it’s too soon to know exactly when that will take place.