IR Pride next chapter in principal’s educational career

DAGSBORO — With the first day of school, Michael Williams this week began the next chapter in his educational career.

The 46-year-old Berlin, Md. native is the new principal at Indian River High School.  He comes to Indian River from Georgetown Middle School where he served as principal for nine years. He replaces Bennett Murray, who has taken other administrative positions in the Indian River School District.

Michael Williams is the new principal at Indian River High School.

Mr. Williams graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin. He attended the University of Delaware and Wilmington University. He earned a degree in elementary education and a master’s in education.

His wife Rita is employed as a teacher in the Indian River district at Lord Baltimore Elementary in Ocean View.

Their two sons are Blake, a junior at the University of Delaware, and Luke, a fourth grader at Lord Baltimore Elementary.

The Williams family resides in Roxana.

Where did your education career begin?

“I started out as a third-grade teacher at East Millsboro Elementary. From there I was assistant principal at Frankford elementary. It’s John M. Clayton Elementary now, but it was Frankford Elementary at that time. After that I worked at district office for one year, working with the administrator of pupil services. We were working with all the schools in the district at that time developing Positive Behavior Support programs in all 16 schools.”

“At that time, Sussex Central Middle School was getting ready to split. It was a school in Millsboro with close to 1,200 kids. They knew the following year they would be split into Georgetown and Millsboro. I was at district office, ironically my office was housed here at Indian River High School. I did that for one year. I knew I was going to be going in another year to one of the middle schools. I didn’t know how that was going to work out. Then I got moved to Richard Allen, which was our alternative school; that it is now Carver. I was the program coordinator at Richard Allen for one year.”

Then it was “Splitsville”?

“Then I went to Georgetown Middle School. I was there nine years as principal. When I went to Georgetown Middle School it was a brand new middle school. When Sussex Central split — Sussex Central had always been in Millsboro —  I would say the majority of the staff went back to Millsboro and became teachers at Millsboro Middle School.”

“When I started that first year in 2008 at Georgetown Middle School I had a small handful of teachers that chose to stay in Georgetown. The unique thing with that school there was 450 students there my first year. Every year that school continued to increase. Now, they are almost 800 students. Every year I was consistently hiring teachers. I was in a unique opportunity to be able to hire most of the staff there. There was less than 10 staff members that I inherited for lack of a better word. Everybody else I had hired, I interviewed and I had screened.”

“At that, I feel I had a personal connection with the staff members there. I was there for almost 10 years. It’s a unique situation. Most principals don’t get the opportunity to hire their whole staff. I had that opportunity and I think that is why that school is so successful. They were people that I felt brought the values and work ethic and the mind-set that I was looking for to help students and improve achievement overall and take a school that wasn’t doing well academically the first couple of years to a school that is now getting recognized at the state level. We were awarded grants/money for closing the achievement gap.”

“The teachers there have a lot of pride in that school and work hard. It’s a very diverse, high-poverty population. There is a high Hispanic population. Yes, it was sort of hard to leave there because you feel like along with the teachers you sort of built that school from the ground up.”

Talk about opportunity and the new challenge at IRHS?

“My former superintendent Dr. (Susan) Bunting, she was one that always believed every five, six or seven years sometimes it’s good to look for new opportunities, to challenge yourself and learn something different — and get out of your comfort level.”

“This opportunity came. Mr. (Superintendent Mark) Steele came to me with this opportunity. There were going to be some changes. Bennett Murray had decided to step down and Mr. Steele was looking to fill this position with someone within our district. This is a new challenge for me. I have not been an administrator in a high school. However, when I was at Richard Allen for a year we did have a high school program.”

“It has been a learning experience. I’ve been here since July 1. I have two really good assistants that were both ironically teachers here at a point in their career. So, they know a lot of the staff members here. They know the inner workings. That has been a plus to me. I am excited to a point now where I want to get started.”

“We had open house (Aug. 24) for our ninth graders. I sort feel like I can relate with the ninth graders and the ninth-grade parents. This is sort of a first for me. But I feel like I can relate to them.”

Your decision for a career in education?

“Going into college I wasn’t quite sure. I had thought about criminal justice. I actually had some friends who were teachers in the district. A lot of people said, ‘I think you’d be a good teacher. You’re good with kids. You’ve got a good personality. You’re even-keeled.”

“I started subbing a little bit. At that time, the district had a summer migrant program back in the mid-90s. Dr. Bunting ran that program. She was a supervisor at that time. I applied for a job. She hired me as a summer teacher there. I just really connected with kids. You sort of find that you like going to work. I said,’ I want to pursue this.’ That’s when I enrolled at Wilmington University to get a master’s in education and obtain my certification for teaching and administration. I did student teaching at North Georgetown (Elementary) and subbed there quite a bit my first year.”

You feel you’ve made the right choice?

“My parents had family businesses. My family loved what they did. I wanted to find something that I really enjoy doing every day. I can truly say that. When I was in the classroom I loved the interaction with the kids, seeing their growth, dealing with their families and their parents and sort of watching them mature into young adults.”

Talk about IR PRIDE:

“IR has a lot of great pride and tradition here. If you talk to people who graduated from here, whether recently or 20 years ago there is a lot of pride. I’ve met with a lot of the IR alumni members who constantly give back to the school now and support the school with initiatives. I want to maintain that level of pride. I was honored that Mr. Steele came to me. Mr. Steele was an administrator here. He was a teacher, an assistant and a principal here. I know what this building means to him. For him to come to me and think that I am the right person to come here means a lot to me, the confidence that he has in me. So, I’m going to do everything to prove him right and do my job the best I can.”

Where does free/leisure time take you?

“I’m very family oriented. I come from a large family. So, family is very important me. I try to spend a lot of time with my sons. I love being outside. I love working in the yard. I try to exercise two to three times a week.”

“I’m a huge sports fan. I attend a lot of games: high school, college and pro. I enjoy going to sporting events no matter what level.”

“I really value the time that I have with my family. I try to set aside time with them. I’ve been able to do that. That’s going to be one of my challenges this year to be honest with you.”

Closing thoughts?

“My whole career has been with the Indian River School District. Every school that I have been in I have worked hard. I want the kids to do well, and I want the kids to be proud of where they go to school”

“I have a son in elementary that will come to this high school.”

“I had about 10 years in elementary and about 10 years in middle school. So, I’ve got my 20 years and now I am starting high school. When I first started wanting to teach I wanted to teach high school. You sort of go where the job lands you. I never thought I was going to start out my first year teaching in elementary.

“I’ve had a great 20 years. I wouldn’t change anything. I’m looking forward to this. I’ve learned so much already this summer. It’s really different because I don’t think people realize the differences between elementary, and middle and high school. I didn’t even realize, like the different aspects of scheduling.”

“I’ve been in the northern end of the district for the last almost 20 years. So, I don’t know a lot of the students here except the ones that I know through family and friends. I am looking forward to working with the staff here and getting to know the students and the parents. I know the community really well; I live in it.”

“I definitely will not be bored. I am not going to sit here and get stale. There is a lot to do. I am just really looking forward to getting started.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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