Dr. April Norris is getting a new title.
Norris, who has served as the principal at Bel-Aire Elementary School for the last five years, will now be the director of state and federal programs for the school district, according to Director of Schools John Carver.
“I’m excited to be working with April,” Carver said of the move. “She brings a lot to the table. Dr. Tammy Hatfield has done a great job of building the program to this point, and I think Dr. Norris will take the ball and move it forward.”
Hatfield was the director of special education for the district for several years before retiring in May.
Among Norris’s new responsibilities are the special education department, as well as the federal budget for the district. Norris will also oversee the district’s 504 education plans.
A 504 plan is one that manages a short-term disability for a student, Carver said.
“The 504 is kind of a gateway to special education,” he said. “A 504 traditionally is for someone that has a short term disability – for example, if you break your leg or you have to take a medicine [in class]. It is to ensure that, if a student has a special, short-term learning challenge, that the school is making the accommodations for that child.”
When asked about taking on the new role, Norris said she’s always had “a passion” for special education.
“When I went to school, I had a double major in [general education] and SPED,” she said. “I was always the teacher who sought out the children who didn’t learn in traditional manners, because I saw it as a challenge to try to find out how I could help them learn.”
Though she’s been a school administrator for the last few years, that passion for special education has never diminished, and she said she’s ready to take on this next challenge.
“I think it’ll be a challenge, and I’m excited about stepping into that role,” she said.
Moving up in the ranks is not without its bittersweet moments for Norris, who said she will miss the place she’s called home for the last few years.
“It’s bittersweet, because I love my Bel-Aire family, and five years ago they were so welcoming to me,” she said. “You grow attached to your faculty and your staff and the students. It is emotional, but at the same time, it’s something that I look at as a great opportunity to work with more people and more children – and not always just children. It’ll be just another phase and another way I can make a difference.”
When asked what she’s most looking forward to in her new role, Norris said she’s excited about the opportunity to bridge the gap between general education and special education.
“I think I’m looking forward to working with the principals and forming a type of partnership between gen [education] and special [education] instead of having gen ed teachers and special ed teachers,” she said. “They’re all teachers, and so I look forward to everybody working together to find out ways and help each other learn different strategies that just strengthen pedagogy and make all learners better prepared.”
Norris also said she thought the moves being made at the administrative level were only moving the district forward, and she looked forward to being a part of that process.
“I think it’s an exciting time for Tullahoma City Schools,” she said. “We’re doing a lot with learning transformed and really looking at ways to strengthen and improve things that are taking place. We’ve got a lot of wonderful teachers and staff that are working extremely hard, but you can always get better.
The principal position at Bel-Aire was posted last week and is available online through the district website. For more information, visit the Human Resources section at www.tcsedu.net.
Erin McCullough may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.