Fairmont School will be led by two new administrators when classes resume for students this fall.
To propel the district, the Fairmont School District 89 Board of Education recently approved a pair of selections naming Tamela Daniels as principal and Diane Cepela as superintendent.
“I’m excited,” Cepela said. “I’ve been in the area a little over 30 years.”
In February, the school district took steps to start its search for a superintendent, at which point officials awarded a contract valued at $6,400 to the Illinois Association of School Boards.
The superintendent position, though filled on an interim basis by Lela Bridges until recently, became vacant in the spring of 2016 when then superintendent Sonya Whittaker resigned.
Cepela said she is ready for a new opportunity.
“It’s a large community that wants to be involved,” she said. “I want to develop a learning environment that connects students and parents and clergy. I think there’s an opportunity. I’m looking forward to strengthening that.”
Cepela previously served as superintendent at Newark School District 66.
“Communication is critical, being visible, listening—listening is part of communication—being welcoming, accessible to students, parents,” she said. “[With] the business of running the school, structures can be put in place to lay that out.”
The hiring of Daniels follows the departure of ZaRita Beal, who resigned as principal June 30. When Beal informed the school board of her intentions in March, Fairmont officials said plans were in the works to bring on board a new principal once its next superintendent is named.
“I’m very excited,” Daniels said. “I was principal before.”
Daniels began serving as assistant principal at Fairmont in 2011 and subsequently became principal during the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 academic years.
Prior to receiving notification of her new job, Daniels was hired earlier this year by Fairmont to work as a curriculum consultant. Daniels wants to implement some changes and make sure students move forward as capable learners who rank competitively when compared to theirs peers. She also stressed how important it is not to fix what isn’t broken, as well.
But the reality is serving as principal is an evolving role, and those who assume the position must be willing to adapt, Daniels said.
“It’s changed a lot,” Daniels said of the principal role. “A principal was a manager’s position when I was growing up. Today, you’re looking at being more visible in the classroom. You have to be an instructional leader. You must make sure curriculum is implemented with fidelity. You have to be involved with the curriculum. It’s not just pushing papers.”
Technology and social media serve as other drivers of change in today’s world.
Daniels recognizes this, and said she is ready to work on confronting challenges as they present themselves.
“You’re always faced with challenges,” she said. “You make sure expectations are out. You can manage that. We do [Positive Behavior Intervention Support] to curtail some of that.”
PBIS is a rewards system many school districts utilize to promote good student behavior and conduct.
“The key is every teacher has the buy-in,” Daniels said. “They know what we expect from students as far as conduct and behavior goes.”
Some of Daniels’ goals include continuing to build on parent involvement, increasing visibility, making sure students feel Fairmont is a place they want to learn and striving for excellence.
Cepela intends to bring the tools for success she garnered while working for Newark School District 66 to Fairmont.
“I loved being at Newark District 66,” she said. “We built a community where every felt it was their school. We passed a referendum to get new money for operating funds. We communicated why we needed the money. Our parents felt their school was theirs. If we replicate that here at Fairmont, we’ll have success in helping students to excel—socially, emotionally and academically. I hope to do that in the Fairmont way.”