New ‘Dream Team’ leads Mabank Junior High School
Posted by : August 24, 2013| On :
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK-Of the 57 new teachers starting this year at Mabank ISD, 19 of them are teaching seventh and eighth grade. In fact, counting paraprofessionals, 28 new faces are on staff at the Mabank Junior High. But don’t think they aren’t up to speed on how it’s done in Panther Country because the new principal is steeped in the Panther tradition.
Barbie Conrad moved up from assistant principal to head the 600-student campus. Most know her as Barbie Bolin. She married over the summer in Colorado. Her engagement is now part of Panther history. During a junior high school assembly May 13, 2012, her boyfriend, Sean, came to school dressed in a Panther costume, got down on one knee in front of the entire student body and proposed marriage.
Why the get up?
To recall Barbie’s year as the school’s mascot at athletic and spirit events, back in the day. You see she is a 1998 Mabank High School graduate. Many of the students who witnessed that dramatic event are starting this year as high school freshmen.
“It was really special,” Conrad told The Monitor Wednesday.
Having started as an administrator at Lakeview Elementary and having taught reading for the Gifted and Talented at the middle school, today she heads up a team of new administrators, ready to start the new year at the junior high. Her team consists of dean of students John Miller, counselor Tina Haney and associate principal Danielle Williams.
Miller, originally from the Beaumont-Gross area, has taught and coached for 11 years at Malakoff and Athens high schools. It is his first year as an administrator. He will be responsible for meeting students in their most stressful moments – when they’ve been caught repeatedly doing or saying something inappropriate or against the rules. When looking for someone to fill this very important role, Conrad said she wanted someone with a “big heart” and found Miller.
“He is able to relate easily to kids,” she observed. “Plus, he has been able to accomplish any assignment thrown at him,” she added.
In getting the classrooms ready for students, Miller was willing to fill in as maintenance help to hook up equipment and move heavy furniture. “Then, he changed back into his professional clothing and conducted the EOP (Emergency Operational Procedures) training for the staff,” she explained. “He shows no fear.”
His approach to kids in trouble is to show that he cares about them.
“Often times, they just want to be heard,” Miller observes. “I expect I’ll be doing a lot of listening,” he said.
Miller said he wants to discover what is the most valuable school-related activity or opportunity a student holds dear, so he can relate the student’s current problem to a solution that will preserve their interests and values. Though big-hearted and easy to talk to, Miller said once he has thought a situation through and come to a decision about a consequence – that’s how it will be. Miller has three children of his own, ages 14, 11 and 9. He and his wife, Amy, are rearing them in Athens.
Counselor Tina Haney comes to education after a full career in accounting and finance, having managed her husband’s engineering firm. She said she has always had “a heart for kids” and when her last child went off to college she started looking for an opportunity to enter the education field. She is from Phalba. After getting a teaching certificate, she taught a television class at North Forney High School for five years.
This is her first year as a school counselor.
Haney plans to focus on helping junior high students identify their values and interests to assist them in thinking and exploring careers. She also intends to strengthen awareness about bullying. She says her job is all about “building relationships with the students and making connections.” She understands the growth spurts and the awkwardness junior high students sometimes feel, because she had similar issues. The advice she’ll give students is “God made you special and you’re amazing. Be proud of who you are.”
Haney completed her master’s degree in counseling in February but delayed her own graduation so she and her daughter could walk together during commencement at LaMar University Aug. 17, as newly minted school counselors. Her daughter, Jamie McRae, took a high school counseling post in Manvel ISD.
Conrad knew her new school counselor from the time Haney’s mother operated a sewing business in town. In those days you didn’t order drill, pep squad and cheer costumes – they were sewn, and that’s what Jewell Coburn (Haney’s mom, now deceased) did. “My sister and I did beauty pageants and she used to sew all our costumes,” Barbie said. “That’s how I first came to know Tina.”
Last, but not least is associate principal Danielle Williams. Most recently, she held a similar position at Mabank High School, but a good deal of her time those past four years was consumed by coordinating state testing and re-testing schedules. She’s glad that the number of tests has been reduced, but notes there is a lot of behind-the-scenes preparation done before and after testing has taken place.
This year, she’s looking forward to actively supporting teachers by providing them with the appropriate curriculum aids that will best facilitate learning in a fun and exciting environment. “That’s the culture we will be building here,” she said.
She’ll be spending some of her time in the classrooms, supporting the teacher, hearing concerns, learning what works and getting materials. “We have 19 new teachers this year, I hope to be of assistance to them.
The associate principal title replaces the former instructional facilitator title, she explained. Her new job is a lateral career move. Previously, she taught for 10 years in Brownsboro ISD, starting at the junior high. “I love junior high students,” she said. Early on in her career she was a coach for basketball, volleyball, softball and baseball. She was on the state champion basketball team at Trinity Valley Community College in 1996. But she gave up coaching to have a family with her minister husband, Brent Williams, who pastors the Elm Grove Church. The couple lives in Mabank and has two children, ages 9 and 6.
“Her experience at the high school means she knows what these kids need to be prepared for as freshmen,” Conrad noted.
Together, the “new Dream Team” knows this first year will be about establishing their unique leadership style and setting a campus culture that’s welcoming, orderly and challenging in a fun and exciting way.
“We want to project a positive attitude toward learning so that they will love to be here,” Conrad said.