Russell leaves Birdville to lead Eagles

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014
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Jeff Russell is leaving the Birdville ISD nest to become the lead Eagle at Decatur High School.

Jeff Russell

The Decatur school board voted 7-0 Monday to hire Russell as the new DHS principal, replacing Jason Cochran, who left after six years for a job as superintendent at Eastland ISD.

Russell currently serves as principal at Haltom Middle School in the Birdville school district.

Decatur Superintendent Rod Townsend said the district received 44 applicants for the position, and Russell emerged as the best choice. A committee of four teachers, three parents, two administrators and Townsend narrowed the list to 10 applicants to interview. The committee, minus Townsend, interviewed the 10 candidates and came up with their top three to bring back for a second interview.

The final round of interviews was done by Townsend, Assistant Superintendent Gary Micinski and DHS Assistant Principal Steven Valkenaar.

“It was a unanimous decision on the first round of interviews as well as the second round,” Townsend said. “There were many quality candidates. The talent pool was deep, but in both instances he rose to the top.”

Townsend pointed out the success Russell had working with students as one of the keys to their decision.

“He asked to go from the most affluent campus in HEB to the least affluent, and he made huge gains with those students,” Townsend said. “It’s clear he has a heart for kids.”

On his resume, Russell listed his achievements at Haltom Middle School, including:

  • Reduction in student failures by 50 percent
  • Reduction in DAEP placements by 20 percent
  • Reduction in campus tardies each day by 95 percent

He also listed improvement in state tests, the TAKS and STAAR, including gains in special education reading, limited English proficiency (LEP) reading and math.

Russell has served as principal at Smithfield Middle School (also in Birdville ISD), assistant principal at Birdville High School and teacher, including special education.

Prior to his education career, Russell spent 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history from the University of Texas at Arlington, a master of education from Texas Woman’s University and is currently pursuing his doctorate of education at Dallas Baptist University.

Townsend said two of Russell’s references suggested he hang up the phone immediately and call Russell to offer him the job.

“Every one of his references talked about how he has the ability to pull everyone together and increase morale,” he said. “Everyone loved working for him. They talked about him being a great listener.”

Russell was in attendance with several family members, and he said he looked forward to being a part of the Decatur community.

“The facility that you have, and the computers for the kids, it just really shows you have a community that really cares about public education in Decatur. I feel fortunate to be a part of that,” he said.

Russell will officially begin work at DHS July 1.

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