HARTLEY—The Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn School District will welcome two new principals on July 1.
Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn instructional coach Ashley Benz was selected to be the next elementary principal while special education facilitator Corey Ramsey of the Davenport School District was tapped to be the middle school principal.
Superintendent Patrick Carlin said the district board of education received 25-30 applicants for each position. The board approved the hires during a meeting Monday, April 5.
“We had a very quality pool, and it was really great to see these guys rise to the top,” Carlin said.
Ashley Benz was born and raised in Hartley, graduated from Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn High School in 2004 and soon will become the district’s next elementary principal.
“I’m excited to be part of a strong administration team that is committed to working with all of the members of the learning community,” Benz said.
“By that I mean staff, the school board, families and the H-M-S communities as a whole to move our district forward and provide our current and future students with the best education possible.”
The 35-year-old instructional coach is replacing longtime principal Cathy Jochims, who is retiring after this academic year.
It was Jochims who initially posted the instructional coach position about five years ago and approached Benz to see if she would be interested. Benz had been teaching fourth grade in the district.
Since then, Benz has worked closely with Jochims and other staff members on a variety of programs and initiatives in the district, such as establishing professional learning communities, or PLCs, at the start of the 2019-20 academic year.
The PLCs are twice-a-month meetings for teachers to discuss ways to improve the academic experience and performance of students. This academic year, Benz also was involved in implementing the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program in the district.
“There are multiple people in the school who have worked together to really move these initiatives forward, but she has supported my work in going into the classroom and working with teachers through coaching cycles or whatever means the teachers need to feel supported,” Benz said of Jochims.
Benz graduated from the University of Sioux Falls in South Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2008. She then taught fourth grade in the Sioux Falls School District for about five years before enrolling at Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD, to get her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in technology.
Benz spoke of how her familiarity with the district and existing relationships with the community members will be beneficial as she makes the transition to the elementary principal.
“Those relationships will switch now that I will be overseeing the staff, but at least having that foundation to having the relationships here in the community,” she said.
Although she will be overseeing the elementary, Benz also spoke of how the district has been working as a cohesive unit to enact progress across all schools. She cited her experience as an instructional coach in giving her expertise to collaborate with people across the district instead of just one particular school building.
“It’s an exciting time to be a Hawk,” she said. “With the completion of the middle school this summer, we’ll have two new, 21st-century buildings that will provide our students with endless learning possibilities.”
A weeklong camping trip at the Iowa Great Lakes last summer helped put N’West Iowa on Corey Ramsey’s radar as a potential place to work.
Then when he interviewed to become Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Middle School’s next principal, the 45-year-old Eldridge native knew he was making the right call.
“When I met with the superintendent and then the board members that were in on that interview, it became very clear that we had a very, very similar vision,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey will be replacing longtime middle school principal Mark Dorhout, who is leaving after this academic year to teach in the Panorama School District.
He graduated from Iowa State University in Ames with his bachelor’s degree in exercise science and health education in 1998 and later got an endorsement in special education from Western Illinois University in Macomb in 2000. Western Illinois also is where he received his master’s degrees in community health education and educational leadership and administration.
Ramsey has worked at numerous school districts in Iowa and Illinois in a variety of roles, including a six-year tenure as special education consultant at the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency in Bettendorf. He then became the special education facilitator at Williams Intermediate School for grades 7-8 in the Davenport School District, where he has worked the past year.
“We have a high percentage of special education students here, so I’m in essence managing about almost 25 percent of our population, as well as our staff, which currently includes about 21 paraprofessionals and 15 teachers,” Ramsey said. “It’s actually very similar to the entirety of H-M-S Middle School.”
The special education facilitator position gave Ramsey administrative experience, although he eventually began looking for leadership opportunities such as becoming a principal. He spoke of the camping trip his family took last summer in N’West Iowa and how it coincided with his search for potential areas to consider moving to.
“That was one of the areas that my wife and I talked about that we would look at,” he said. “When I saw that one come up, it was just from that point me interviewing the district and the district interviewing me and deciding it was a good fit.”
He recalled speaking with superintendent Patrick Carlin about his educational philosophy and background and being excited when he realized they were on the same page when it came to providing the best schooling for students.
Ramsey also is looking forward to leaving a large district for a smaller one because it will allow him to work closer with his fellow administrators. Since the Davenport School District consists of several school buildings and a larger administrative staff, decisions about the district tend to be made at a slower pace.
“The opportunities that we have at H-M-S to make serious change are much easier. You don’t have that bureaucracy that you’re working through,” he said.
“It’s working with one other guy down in the superintendent’s office and then the other two principals and then just working with your building team from there.”