Red Oak Elementary hires new principal

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, May 25, 2023

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Red Oak Elementary School has welcomed a new principal in Nicholasville has a new principal.

Emily Ellsworth will replace the retiring Andrea McNeal, who opened the school as principal in 2013 and has spent 39 years in education.

“Jessamine County has always been home to me,” said Ellsworth, who has spent the majority of her life in the area.

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Ellsworth began her career working for McNeal at Wilmore Elementary in 2004. She spent fourteen years there as a classroom teacher interventionist and instructional specialist. Ellsworth also spent a year working in Colorado and most recently served as an instructional specialist at William Wells Brown Elementary School in Lexington.

Curriculum and instruction are still where Ellsworth’s heart lies.

“I really love the curriculum aspect of education and feel like if teachers and leaders deeply understand what we need academically for our students, then we can better reach them no matter where they are. Understanding the content and where they need to be is how we can focus on meeting the kids at their needs,” she said

Not only has Ellsworth taught in Jessamine County she received part of her education in the area. The new principal has received multiple degrees from Asbury University in Wilmore.

Her own children are receiving their education in Jessamine County.

“We’ve actually lived here for eighteen years now, and my kids have always stayed in Jessamine County Schools, even when I’ve been in Lexington for the last four years,” Ellsworth said, noting what makes the school district and area unique. “We love the size of the county. I love the community leaders and the leaders of the district office. They are very focused on our kids and their learning, and they provide a nurturing environment, as well. They take care of my kids, and I was excited to have the opportunity to come in and partner with them and continue to strive for academic excellence for our students at Red Oak Elementary.”

The school’s SBDM committee knew it had big shoes to fill and wanted to ensure they hired the right person.

Kali Kellis, a fourth-grade science teacher and committee member, explained that it started by sending out surveys to students, parents, teachers and staff asking what they wanted in a new principal. Once they received the finished surveys, the team pulled out the most common ideals and adjectives listed in the surveys. After identifying the common denominators, they compiled them into a rubric to find their new principal.

“From there, we looked at the applicants and we kind of narrowed them down and said, ‘These are the top four people who we feel like meet this criteria,” Kellis said. “After that, it was really just based on the strength of interviews and seeing how well they were able to hit those criteria when we spoke with them one-on-one. We just went with what we felt was going to be not only best for the longevity of Red Oak but what was best for all of our students.”

Angela Miller, a teacher and the primary representative on the SBDM, shared her thoughts on Ellswoth’s selection.

“I think it was a decision that we didn’t take lightly. It had a lot of consulting going on. I think it’s going to be a good fit for our school.” Miller said, “I think she’s already embodied what red oak is about. She realizes our mission statement here and she wholeheartedly agrees with what we’re about and she wants to take us to the next level.”

Superintendent Matt Moore said he and the district are very excited to have Ellsworth join the team.

“I think she has experiences from outside of our county that we’re gonna find very valuable, plus she has a really good foundation of what Jessamine County’s all about, having worked with Wilmore Elementary,” Morre said. “What really resonated with the School-Based Decision Making Council and myself is that you can tell she wants to have a really strong connection with our community and our parents and had some creative ideas of how she wanted to execute that. And you can tell also she knows a lot of the teachers here and appreciates their strengths and qualities and she’s got a strong group of educators that she can work with to support our students the way that we need to.”