Tullahoma’s East Lincoln Elementary School’s principal was the fifth and final candidate to be interview by the Coffee County Board of Education on Friday, June 21.
Scott Hargrove believes the bottom line is doing what is best for the students. That means being positive, loyal and having high expectations.
“I think one of my strengths is working with other people. I think reasonable people can agree and disagree and come to a consensus on issues. The loyalty end, I’ve been in a leadership position in a school building as an administrator in 15 years and have been a coach forever. I think it’s got to be built on trust and loyalty and I think I have those characteristics,” Hargrove said.
He later added he is passionate about kids learning and growing because students are educators’ legacies.
“Everything about leadership in an educator’s life should be student-centered. Whatever we do and whatever we don’t do should be to benefit that student. I believe in collaborative leadership style that’s based on trust,” Hargrove said.
“I believe you have to be an effective communicator as a leader, but I think more than anything else, you’ve got to be an effective listener,” he continued.
“I think being supportive is of vital importance as well,” he said.
Making Coffee County the best
Hargrove looked into the district’s test scores and noticed they were on par with meeting district goals. He offered his thoughts on how to push the district beyond the vision and goals of the school board.
Hillsboro Elementary School leads the district in science. Hargrove would want to sit and talk with Hillsboro Principal Angela Harris about how she accomplished this and develop those strategies in other schools.
However, data isn’t everything to him and he explained he knows it is not a foolproof way of measuring a district.
“Take testing away, take state testing completely away from the equation. My philosophy doesn’t change- I want to push that poor student to average, that average student to good, that good student to great,” he said.
“Take [testing] away,” Hargrove continued. “I think data is very valuable and useful speaking to the testing, but I don’t think it’s everything the children are. It doesn’t measure their creativity, it doesn’t matter their kindness, it doesn’t matter their effort.”
He added testing skips over musical talent, athletics, drama and more. Tests, he said, are just a piece to the overall puzzle.
Despite that, he knows it is difficult to move forward from good to great.
“Trying to move forward, sometimes that last jump from good to great is the hardest thing to do. I think you’ve got some folks here, when I looked at the date, are doing great jobs in the classroom. Are we using those teachers…to spread to things others are doing in the classrooms?” he said.
He called Coffee County Central High School’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program one of the best in the state and is interested to see how he can grow that area, if he is selected as director.
“You have a pretty good head start on getting to great,” Hargrove said.
The culture in the schools needs to be based on high expectations, Hargrove said. Having high expectations of the staff, faculty and administration to ensure they are serving the kids.
“Doing your best every day. Having an environment where teachers are not afraid to come in and take risks. When we fail, we fail forward,” he said.
He added making people feel safe in school is important too.
“You want a culture that’s friendly. You want your people to feel safe. You want teachers and staff to feel safe at work. You want them to get up and be excited about coming to work every day,” he explained.
“You want to treat people like professionals; you want to treat them like grownups. That’s got to be modeled from the director all the way down,” Hargrove added.
As a principal in Tullahoma, he visits every classroom every day so his teachers were comfortable with him and knew they were supported. As director, if he was offered the position, he would try to be in the classrooms and schools as much as he could be too.
To Hargrove, the best way to build a relationship and show support is to be there, face-to-face.
“In my mind, regarding in service, and in-service hours are critical to teachers. You don’t want to eat up a lot of their times, but I do think it’s important to meet with the prior to school beginning,” he said. Hargrove added he would like to be present for faculty meetings as well.
“I think it’s a shame when folks don’t know who their superintendent is. The system I am at, I’ve had four in my lifetime there. And we have a new one now. But I’ve known all of them. I knew them because they were in our buildings and I think it has such a positive impact on your staff if it’s correctly,” Hargrove added. “It has an impact on your students as well.”
As for teacher recruitment, he said how to bring in and retain the right teachers is the million dollar question. He believes that a large part of retention is all about how you treat faculty.
“I think if you treat them like a professional…you show those folks they are valued, you support them and you celebrate with them, I think they’re more apt to stay,” Hargrove said.
Keeping them local is important too – students who go into education after graduation should be recruited heavily and the district should make every attempt to retain them, he said.
The whole child
Hargrove understands there is more to school than teaching the core subjects – it’s also about supporting the students emotionally.
“The first thing we want to do for our students, they’ve got to feel safe and they’ve got to feel loved. At East Lincoln, we’re going to love them,” he said. Hargrove later added that if students don’t feel safe or loved, they won’t learn as effectivity.
On the athletic end, Hargrove knows how important it is that students learn how to work as a team, good sportsmanship and how to grow from adversity – Hargrove said he did the exact thing himself when he was in high school and playing on one of the worst football teams in the state at the time.
“The athletics you have here, especially on the girls’ side, are phenomenal,’ Hargrove said.
As for music, he added, “we live on the doorstep of Nashville, Tenn., one of the largest music industries. We don’t test over that. I think they’re all important.”
He believes in teaching soft skills as well as academics – effort, attitude actions and reactions are his four things he believes people are in charge of every day. He focuses on that a lot in his school, as well as social skills and manners.
But at the end of the day, if he feels like he did his best to get his students’ best that, day, and if everyone loved the students like the students needed, he is satisfied.