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story.lead_photo.caption Terri Tillinghast
Justin Browning

Students at South Elementary School and Jefferson City Academic Center will have new principals at the start of the school year — among new hires announced Monday by Jefferson City Public Schools that also include a director of health services, assistant principals and administrative interns.

South's new principal Teresa "Terri" Tillinghast and JCAC's new principal Justin Browning were previously listed in the News Tribune's "Back to School" edition, but the district provided more details about their backgrounds Monday.

Tillinghast had been the administrative intern at Pioneer Trail Elementary School since August 2017, and is a former Lawson Elementary School teacher and Pioneer Trail assistant principal.

"Her plans to focus on the communication between school, families and the community will help continue the successes that South School has experienced the past couple of years with increased student achievement," JCPS' Director of Elementary Education Lorie Rost said of Tillinghast in the district's news release Monday.

The news release from Ryan Burns, JCPS director of communications, also credited Tillinghast with developing "positive relationships with staff, students and families" at Pioneer Trail and being "entrusted with the key responsibilities of building leadership and successfully (showcasing) her skills in instructional leadership, staff development, behavioral intervention, student supervision and effective communication."

Browning was most recently an activities and athletics assistant principal for Columbia Public Schools and Muriel W. Battle High School — also having worked in education in Cuba, Washington and Linn, according to the news release.

"He understands how to lead middle and high school students through systematic and cultural transitions. He also possesses the experience and skills of intervening to assist students in modifying behaviors to cultivate and exemplify successful interpersonal skills. A well-versed communicator, Justin has the ability to collaborate with all parties to solve problems in resolving conflicts," the news release states.

Gary Verslues, JCPS director of secondary education, said in the news release that Browning has experience in alternative educational settings, adding that Browning's "passion to support and promote each student's unique talents, along with his natural ability to quickly build positive relationships, will lend itself well in our mission to give every student hope for a better tomorrow."

Chad Sooter has been hired as director of health services for JCPS.

Sooter is a licensed registered nurse and comes to JCPS from Capital Region Medical Center, where he was the recruiting manager and charge nurse for the emergency room, and the pharmacy purchasing supervisor for Capital Region prior to that, according to the JCPS news release.

In his new role with the school district, Sooter will "maintain a comprehensive district student health program, while developing positive relationships with administrators, staff and students through wellness programs."

Bridget Frank, JCPS director of special services, added in the news release, "We are excited for Chad to help facilitate student/staff health in our classrooms, nurses' offices and community. His leadership skills, broad nursing experiences and positive attitude will be a strong asset to JCPS."

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Burns later added that Sooter's position at JCPS did exist previously, "but the scope and responsibilities of the position have expanded."

JCPS also announced the hires of two assistant principals and two administrative interns:

Dominique Falls, assistant principal at Jefferson City High School. Falls has taught at Lange Middle School and Oakland Junior High School in Columbia.

"Dominique brings a skill set that meets the needs of students both in and out of the classroom. His ability to build positive relationships with all stakeholders will be an asset in our journey to become a premier school district," Verslues said in the news release.

James Groves, assistant principal at Thomas Jefferson Middle School. Groves comes to JCPS from the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he was the principal of the grades K-8 Barnette Magnet School.

Groves also has classroom experience with the East St. Louis District No. 189, where he taught English for second, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Verslues said in the JCPS news release, "James brings a wealth of knowledge with regard to curriculum and instruction, especially literacy and the embedding of literacy across all content areas," and Groves has been a leader "when it comes to enhancing the school environment and student performance in diverse cultural contexts."

Stacy Armstrong, administrative intern at Lawson. Armstrong is coming to JCPS from teaching various elementary grade levels with the Camdenton R-3 and Lebanon R-3 school districts.

Rost credited Armstrong in particular with strong data teaming and analysis skills and "balanced literacy practices."

Jesse Oswald, administrative intern, Pioneer Trail. Oswald is coming to JCPS from the Boonville R-1 district, where he was an assistant principal. He also previously was a physical education teacher and coached basketball, baseball, track and student council.

Rost said Oswald has a strong background in the student behavior management system the district uses and will work with Pioneer Trail's principal "to ensure a positive school culture and climate."

Rost added, "When needed during September and October, Jesse will also fill in as the administrative intern at West (Elementary) School."

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