3 Candidates Interview for the Saline High School Principal's Position.

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Three candidates interviewed for the Saline High School principal's position Thursday evening at Saline High School.

Theresa Stager, interim principal at Saline High School, Musetta Deneen, assistant principal at Saline High School, and C. Ezekiel Ohan, principal of Detroit Cody High School, were interviewed by a moderator in front of three different audiences - the public, staff and administration.

The audience simply observed and provided written feedback and the conclusion of the interviews.

Saline Area Schools district administration is expected to interview two or three finalists Friday. The new principal will likely be introduced at the May 24 Board of Education meeting.

The Saline Post observed the interview in front of the general public. Few parents, students and community members attended the interview. Board of Education President Jennifer Steben, Vice-President Michael McVey, Secretary Kandace Jones and Trustees Brad Gerbe, Susan Estep and Jenny Miller were among those in attendance.

SHS Principal candidat C. Ezekiel Ohan answers a question during the forum Thursday.

C. Ezekiel Ohan was the first to take questions. Ohan left the podium and walked with the microphone in front of his audience. Introducing himself, Ohan said he spent 10 of his 20 years in education as a teacher, winning "teacher of the year" four times. Ohan said he's worked as principal three times and that each time, he raised student scores, student enrollment and the graduation rate.

"I truly enjoy being a principal because it allows me to model what I believe are necessary values to move youngsters forward," Ohan said.

Each candidate was served questions until their 15-minute time slot was up. Ohan's answers were long, so he was not able to address many answers.

SHS principal candidate Theresa Stager answers a question during the forum Thursday.

The next candidate was Stager, who has been interim principal at Saline High School since David Raft left his post to become principal of operations. Stager has worked at Saline High School for 5 1/2 years. She was assistant principal for curriculum and instruction before becoming interim principal. She worked as K-12 music teacher for eight years in Saint Clair County before she was laid off in 2011. She was recruited to work for a payroll company before returning to education as a principal for pre-kindergarten-8 Catholic school.

Answering a question about immediate opportunities for the Saline High School community, Stager talked about the need to adjust to new behaviors exhibited by students since students returned to school full-time after the COVID shutdown.

"Discipline has been pretty high. Behaviors have been pretty high and many of them are trauma-based. We've had a lot of professional development focused on that," Stager said.

She said a "good start" next September with the new administrative team is important.

Stager also talked about the need for security at the 38-door high school and the need to find new ways to assess student growth since many tests went away.

Stager was asked about the principal's role in making sure all student voices are heard and respected.

"I feel like we do student voice very well.  I feel like we have many opportunities for students to come and speak and share concerns. But I would love to get back to what we did pre-COVID, when we had listening sessions with students in the media center. Maybe during Hornet Time we can have all the students in the auditorium, submitting questions and concerns that we can answer in like a town hall," Stager said.

Stager was asked about what parents would call her top three strengths and area in need of improvement. She listed relationships with parents and students as her number one strength. She listed communication as another strength, saying she does the social media and emails. The other strength she listed was support, saying she makes an effort to support students in their goals and struggles.

As for the area of improvement, Stager said she's known for her relationships and support, some might doubt her ability to make tough decisions.

Stager also expressed strong support for the arrangement that has a Pittsfield Police Officer acting as a school resource officer on campus.

"I think it's really important for students to understand that police officers can be a support for us. And he does that here really, really well. He connects with students. We actually have a student who's graduating this year who wants Officer Gassaway to be on stage to hand him his diploma," Stager said.

Deneen serves as assistant principal of Saline High School. She is in her ninth year in education. Before coming to Saline, she taught Spanish and worked at Skyline and Belleville. Deneen is from the Ann Arbor area and studied at the University of Michigan.

SHS principal candidate Musetta Deneen answers a question.estion t

Compared to the other candidates, Deneen flew through the questions at a brisk pace.

Asked about immediate opportunities at Saline High School Deneen spoke of the challenges of returning to five-day-a-week in-person instruction. She talked about social-emotional learning and "meeting kids where they are." She also referred to concerns about learning loss over the last two years.

"I think a big piece is making sure that our programming and our class offerings really meet the needs of students," Deneen said.

She gave an example from the English department.

"We've really tried to streamline offerings at the ninth-grade level to make sure that students are getting their foundational skills," Deneen said.

Asked about the principal's role in making sure all students are comfortable and respected, Deneen said even if the principal can't talk to all 1800 students, they could impact all of them.

"But how we can impact all of them are the decisions that we make, the policy that we implement and how we execute our handbooks," Deneen said. "And so for me, making sure that I have as many social identities in mind as I make decisions and make sure that I seek input from those with different experiences and different knowledge bases than myself when I make decisions."

Deneen was asked about how parents perceive her top three strengths and where they might see a need for improvement.

"I would hope that they would say that I was caring, compassionate, organized, thoughtful -- that I am a collaborator - I seek their input about things and I value their input," Deneen said.  "As for an area of growth, I can show what I want to work on and perhaps others would agree. But being sure to take time to process things and take my time to complete tasks and address certain issues as an area of growth for myself. Another thing is to just have experiences and learn from them."

Deneen also spoke of her support for the Pittsfield police officer post in the school.

"He's been great. Officer Gassaway has been a huge resource for us. In terms of how we worked with him this year, I would see that continuing," Deneen said.

She said she viewed him as more of a consultant that she can rely on for important information than a law enforcement officer. She said students are well served by Officer Gassaway.

"He allows us to offer information to students. Sometimes they get themselves in a situation that they may not realize the seriousness of it. He's non-threatening," Deneen said. "Students have taken to him."

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