After meeting for nearly two hours in a closed session Thursday afternoon, the Elizabethtown High School Site-Based, Decision-Making Council selected Jennifer Burnham to be the school’s next principal.
Burnham, who currently is director of federal programs and leadership development for Hardin County Schools, will take over for Steve Smallwood. Smallwood was promoted in March to assistant superintendent after leading the high school for 10 years.
Burnham was principal at T.K. Stone Middle School for two years before taking the HCS job last year. She previously taught English at North Hardin and Central Hardin high schools and served as a Central Hardin assistant principal.
The site-based council had 16 applicants for the position and interviewed three candidates, Superintendent Jon Ballard said.
“It’s the best pool we’ve had,” he said, adding this was one of the hardest searches he has done.
Amy Inman, a parent on the council, said selecting a principal was not a decision taken lightly. She said the number of qualified candidates made it a difficult decision for them.
“We spent a lot of time focusing on what was best here,” she said.
Ballard said Elizabethtown High’s reputation helped attract candidates.
“Mr. Smallwood has set a high bar and made it a great place to learn,” he said.
Ballard said during Burnham’s time at T.K. Stone, she became a well-respected leader in the district.
“We’re fortunate that we could get her back,” he said.
Ballard said Burnham’s ability to lead people for the common good stood out.
“She’s always interested in what’s best for kids,” he said.
He added the council felt confident Burnham will be at the high school for a long time.
Inman said employees who worked with Burnham had positive things to say about her.
“We can’t ignore that,” she said.
Additionally, Burnham’s qualities matched with those identified as important in a stakeholder survey, Inman said.
Nearly 900 people took the survey. The top three qualities were treating people with respect, ensuring a safe learning environment, and communicating effectively with students, staff, parents and the community.
Inman, who has four children in the district, said she’s excited for them to go through the system and have Burnham as their principal.
“I see a future with her,” she said. “... (She’ll) continue with what Mr. Smallwood has done.”