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New principals enthusiastic about elementary schools

by Syd Hayman | July 14, 2016 at 12:00 a.m.
Kyle Hunt, left, the new principal of Westside Elementary School and Caroline Nail, the new principal of Sidney Deener Elementary School, look forward to their new positions with the Searcy School District.

— The Searcy Public Schools will start the school year next month with two new elementary-school principals.

Caroline Nail is the new principal at Sidney Deener Elementary School, and Kyle Hunt is the new principal at Westside Elementary School. Nail replaces Kim Wilkerson, and Hunt replaces Marye Jane Brockinton.

Hunt, who was previously the principal at H.L. Lubker Elementary School in Bald Knob for three years, said that in his short time at Westside Elementary so far, everyone has been supportive.

“It has been wonderful,” he said. “Everybody has been extremely helpful.”

Hunt said working with elementary-school students is fun.

“I think the greatest thing about it is the energy that they bring each day,” said Hunt, a Greenwood native who started his education career in West Memphis. “At that point, school is still a lot of fun to them.”

Nail agreed, adding that her past experience helped her appreciate elementary-school students even more.

“I absolutely love elementary,” Nail said. “I’ve taught in the middle school and high school, but definitely, home is with my elementary kiddos.”

Nail, whose husband, Chris, began a new role as Rose Bud School District superintendent this month, said working in Searcy keeps her close to her family.

“I am excited about being here in Searcy,” said Nail, a Caddo Gap native. “It’s got a great reputation, and I want to be a part of an exciting school district where good things are happening.”

Hunt and Nail said they will both focus on learning more about their school communities.

“My No. 1 goal is to make sure that my students and my staff and families know that I value them,” Nail said. “I’m going to have to learn about each one of them and how I can best serve them, because that’s what I’m here for. That, to me, is a calling, a very special role that you are in.”

Hunt said he also has learning to do at Westside, which is a school of about 550 students and 35 teachers.

“The people, the staff — everyone that I meet — is going to be someone different that I don’t know,” he said.

Nail said her other goals include supporting the faculty at Sidney Deener Elementary, which has around 400 students and 42 teachers.

“I’ve got to definitely look at what we’re doing in the building and make sure that we’re getting the job done,” she said. “My teachers are very much so called to be here. I’ve got to make sure how to understand how to best support my teachers so they can do their job every day.”

Nail said this is her third year being a principal at a new school. She was an assistant principal at Angie Grant Elementary School in Benton, principal at Magnet Cove Elementary School and, most recently, principal at Clinton Elementary School in Clinton. Moving around the state has also helped her see that there are many people in communities who show support for the schools.

“I definitely have seen a lot of different perspectives and ways to look at school business and how to manage buildings and how to work with people,” she said. “I think the biggest advantage for me is the opportunity to meet so many people.”

She said the principal sets the tone for the building.

“That’s your No. 1 — making sure you’re positive and energetic and being visible,” she said. “I’m going to be out in the hallways and in the classrooms. I’m going to be greeting my kiddos, greeting my staff and my families, and letting them know that I’m glad to see them.”

Hunt said he looks forward to the beginning of the school year because “that’s really when the fun begins.”

“I’m going to do everything that I can to ensure the success of every student that steps on campus,” he said.

Nail said that it’s important for those in the elementary-school setting to remember the various life stages of a child.

“If you can make a child know that you love them and you care for them, then they can do anything for you,” she said. “They’re not going to be perfect — no one is — but they’re going to do their best for you.”

Staff writer Syd Hayman can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or shayman@arkansasonline.com.

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