Twinsburg -- A new school year brings with it a new principal for R.B. Chamberlin Middle School, as recently hired Jim Ries looks ahead to the challenge of improving upon a "great school district."
Ries was recommended to the position May 21 by Superintendent Kathryn Powers after a May 6 circuit interview with 3 final candidates out of more than 25 applicants. His contract is for two years and his salary will be $98,286.61 per year.
He takes over for former principal Belinda McKinney, who took the administrative position of director of human resources at the end of the 2013-14 school year. She will make $94,817.12 per year and be responsible for recruitment and hiring of staff, planning professional development and administrating suspension appeal.
Originally from Girard and now a Tallmadge resident, Ries began his education career as a biology teacher at W.T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in 1992. He relocated to the Southeast Local School District in Portage County and became assistant principal at Southeast Local High School in 2000. Most recently, Ries served as principal of Southeast Local Middle School from 2004 to 2014.
"I took my talents to South Beach, but like LeBron, I decided that Northeast Ohio's a good place to live and raise a family," Ries said. "I was very fortunate to become the [Southeast] middle school principal for the last eight years."
As he prepares to make the change from Southeast to Twinsburg schools, Ries said major differences between the two districts will include class size and population diversity.
"It is really a different environment," Ries said. "Southeast is a rural school district. Close to 50 percent of our students were economically disadvantaged and it was not very diverse. With Twinsburg, you're going to a bigger city school district, you have a very diverse population, which I'm very much looking forward to. I'm looking forward to being back in this type of setting."
Ries said his primary goal as R.B. Chamberlin principal will be to add to the existing quality of the middle school's curriculum and operations.
"Twinsburg City Schools is just a great school district," Ries said. "It's something to really be proud to be a part of. Hopefully, I'll help it to grow. Having a growth mindset is something I emphasize in our staff and our standards. We want to look to improve, we want to look to get better every year."
With hopes to increase science, technology, engineering and math learning opportunities, Ries said his plans for improvement include cooperation with area employers to showcase career opportunities available to students. Ries also hopes to increase emphasis on world language and culture courses.
"I think we also need to start looking at how we can offer more in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math for our middle school students," Ries said. "I'd love to look at maybe community partnerships where they can get exposed to the different careers that are available to them. In an area like Twinsburg, you can do that."
Powers said the May 6 circuit interview with Ries and the subsequent visit to his building at Southeast Local Middle School were very informative of his leadership style and cemented his position at the head of the pack of candidates.
"To be able to see his building, how it operates and how it looks as a learning environment was important to me," Powers said. "I'm confident that we're able to say we did our homework in the search for the middle school principal. He's an experienced middle school administrator. He doesn't have to learn about how to be a principal. I'm delighted that he applied and I'm delighted that he came to the top of the pile as far as applicants go."
Whether a school is rural, inner-city or suburban, it must ensure its students are safe and provided for in all aspects of their young lives, according to Ries.
"We need to be a place that supports our students in this community not just academically but socially and emotionally," Ries said. "RBC's doing a great job, but how can we get better, how can we do more for our kids? We need layers of interventions in place so that nobody fails."
Facebook: Conner Howard, Record Publishing Reporter