SKPS announces new principal hires and transitions for schools, including the announcement of new director of elementary education.
Eight Salem-Keizer schools, including Valley Inquiry Charter School, will see new principals for the 2018-19 school year, sharing a wealth of knowledge and expertise with students and families from various areas in the community.
On June 27, Olga Cobb accepted the position of one of three directors of elementary education for the district. Cobb brings 18 years of experience with the district, most recently serving as principal at César Chávez Elementary since 2012. As a director of elementary education, Cobb will join Sandie Price and Heidi Lithchfield to provide leadership to 42 elementary school principals as they develop programs to help students reach benchmarks and higher state standards. She will also assist schools in boundary changes, provide leadership to the K-12 progress report process, assist in the principal hiring process and meet with communities to explain and interpret matters relating to programs or district operations.
Schools seeing new principal leadership for the 2018-19 school year:
Brush College Elementary: Mónica Takata, previously principal at Bush Elementary
Takata joined SKPS in 2000 to begin the dual-language program at Harritt Elementary. She has also served as an English language acquisition specialist, curriculum, instruction and assessment specialist and principal at Middle Grove Elementary and most recently at Bush Elementary since 2012. Takata is enthusiastic about education and received her B.A. from the University of Guadalajara, Mexico, M.A. in language, reading and culture from the University of Arizona and completed the administration program from Portland State University.
Bush Elementary: Tara Baldridge, previously principal at Clear Lake Elementary
Baldridge has worked in a variety of educational positions, teaching Spanish and English as a second language and for the past 15 years, has served as an administrator in the role of assistant principal at Stephens Middle School and North Salem High School. Baldridge most recently served as principal at Clear Lake Elementary in Keizer since 2013.
Candalaria Elementary: Brian Turner, previously assistant principal at Swegle Elementary
Turner hails from Virginia Beach, Virginia and has taught in public and private education in Virginia, Florida and Oregon. Turner has served as a special education teacher, a high school baseball coach, an athletic director and teacher recruiter. Turner began his career in education in 2008 and has spent the majority of his career working in urban Title I schools, specializing in students with emotional and behavioral needs. Turner brought his expertise to SKPS in 2014, when he worked with the high schools to implement an Emotional Growth Center and work as a teacher recruiter for the district with a focus on diversity. Since 2017, Turner served as the assistant principal at Swegle Elementary. Turner received his B.A. in education from Liberty University in Virginia and M.S. in educational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.
César Chávez Elementary: Teresa Tolento, previously program associate in the Office of Elementary Curriculum
Tolento has been with SKPS for more than 24 years. Tolento is an experienced educator who specializes in literacy and biliteracy education. She has served in various capacities during her career including as an instructional assistant, English language acquisition specialist, bilingual teacher, principal and an adjunct professor at Western Oregon University. Most recently, Tolento shared her knowledge as the district’s literacy program associate in the Office of Elementary Curriculum.
Clear Lake Elementary: Artonya Gemmill, previously principal at Brush College Elementary
Originally from Southern California, Gemmill has spent the past 20 years in education serving as an instructional assistant, full-inclusion teacher, classroom teacher, special education teacher, assistant principal and since 2013, principal at Brush College Elementary. Gemmill has been with SKPS since 2007 and has shared her love for education throughout the district. Gemmill views a collaborative school environment as an important part of building successful learners. She believes having strong relationships between students, staff and parents will foster student success.
Cummings Elementary: Magda Romero, previously assistant principal at Keizer and Chávez Elementary Schools
Romero has been in education for more than 20 years and most recently served as assistant principal at Keizer and Chávez Elementary Schools. Romero attended Chemeketa Community College and Portland State University where she received her master’s in special education and her administrative license. In addition to serving as an assistant principal, Romero has also served as an office manager, instructional assistant and classroom teacher. Romero believes strongly in building a strong community within the school and is committed to helping each child succeed every day.
Hoover Elementary: Bridget West, previously assistant principal at Richmond Elementary
West has worked in SKPS for the entirety of her teaching career, beginning at Hallman Elementary. Throughout her time with SKPS, West has served as a classroom teacher, instructional coach and most recently served as the assistant principal at Richmond Elementary.
Valley Inquiry Charter School: Dr. Jesse Payne, previously Director of Undergraduate Teacher Education at Corban University
Payne will continue working part-time at Corban while serving as principal at Valley Inquiry. Payne has served as an elementary school teacher, high school teacher, paraprofessional, university professor, higher education administrator and human resources director. Payne received his bachelor’s degree in business, master’s degree in education and graduated from the University of Southern California with a doctorate degree in education with an emphasis in K-12 leadership. He has published multiple books about the brain and how it relates to teaching, learning and human behavior. Payne lives in Salem with his wife of 14 years and two children. He has a passion for advocating for underrepresented students, mental health initiatives, social justice, equity and effective leadership practices.
“I am proud of the distinguished leadership we have in our schools,” said Superintendent Christy Perry. “These new principals are committed educators who bring extensive knowledge and experience to their new roles. Each principal brings a fresh perspective to their schools and will continue to support our district vision of all students graduating prepared for a successful life.”