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Clay Harrold hired as new middle school principal

Clay Harrold will begin to serve as the principal of Grinnell Middle School at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.

When school starts up next fall, Grinnell-Newburg Middle School will have a new principal. With 14 years of educational experience under his belt and excellent reference recommendations, Clay Harrold has been selected for the job.

“We recieved about 36 applications for the position,” said Grinnell-Newburg Superintendent Dr. Janet Stutz. Stutz and the middle school staff developed a list of characteristics to look for in the search, including leadership ability, middle school experience and the capacity to build strong relationships with staff and students. Once the pool of applicants had been narrowed down to three candidates, groups of students, staff and parents interviewed each applicant. From there, the pool was narrowed to two, leaving Stutz to make the final decision.

“I had trouble, because the two finalists were equally qualified,” Stutz said. “So I always look at, okay, what is the clincher that is gonna make me select this person?”

Ultimately, Harrold’s references were the “clincher” for Stutz’s decision.

“I had several references that said, ‘please don’t take him from us’ and ‘he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us,’” she said. Most importantly, his references highlighted his ability to build relationships, work with people, and foster positivity — all of which aligned well with the qualities Stutz and the administrative team were looking for.

Harrold is currently the pre-K-12 principal at Tri-County Schools in Keswick, Iowa, where he has been for the past two years. Prior to that, he worked as a behavioral interventionist at South Tama High School for a year, and before that, he spent 11 years teaching special education at a few different schools.

“I’ve always felt a calling to education,” Harrold said. “Both my parents were long-time educators.” 

Harrold said he feels drawn to special education in particular because of his experience growing up with an older brother who struggled in school.

“I was always just kind of naturally working with [my brother] on different things. School was hard for him, and I just felt a calling to answer,” he said. 

Harrold has lived in Grinnell since 2013 with his wife, who has just finished her fifth year as a basketball coach. As a dedicated member of this community, he is looking forward to working for Grinnell-Newburg, his home district.

Despite high hopes about the progress of the middle school, the Feb. 6 failed bond proposal, which would have provided funds for extensive renovations and the construction of a new school, will inevitably set the middle school back, but they are still optimistic for the future. 

“[Grinnell-Newburg Middle School] is a very progressive school, and I think it has an untapped potential. There is still a lot of progress we can make,” Harrold said.

Stutz says she hopes to see Harrold continue to develop the school’s Spanish program, which began last year. Additionally, she looks forward to working with him and the rest of the staff on reading and writing initiatives across all subjects. 

Harrold says his first goal will be to build strong relationships with the students and staff and to get a feel for the culture of the school. 

“[Every school district has] their own climate, you know, they have their own culture,” he said. “Just because we’ve had some initiatives that we’ve accomplished very well at Tri-County, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily gonna be things that fit at Grinnell.”

Harrold’s official contract does not begin until August 1, so he will not take on his role untill the 2018-2019 school year. However, he will begin the transition process this spring.

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