DECATUR — Students will see several new faces at Eisenhower High School when classes begin Aug. 22.
The most noticeable change is a new principal, Charles Hoots.
Hoots, who began work July 1, comes to Decatur from Springfield, where his most recent position was district program supervisor of alternative education for the Springfield School District. He also has worked as a high school principal, assistant principal, dean of students and as a teacher.
“I was very interested in a turnaround school that was affiliated with (the federal school improvement grant),” Hoots said. “I am familiar with that through (Springfield) Lanphier (High School). It interested me when I was doing work over there. I saw that the Decatur school job was open. It’s a nice opportunity for me and I was fortunate to get the job.”
Eisenhower recently received a $5.4 million grant funded by the federal government and awarded through the Illinois State Board of Education to schools that demonstrate the greatest need for funds and a commitment to using the funds to raise student achievement. Only five high schools outside of Chicago received the grant.
Hoots said he’s spent his first weeks on the job working on changes required by the grant, such as shifts in instructional time and setting achievement goals.
“My top priority is to create a climate conducive to learning and positive, so students feel Eisenhower is a place they want to be and get an education and learn,” Hoots said.
Because the second half of high school summer session was held at Eisenhower, he’s had a chance to meet some students, but he’s also thinking of setting up a “meet the new principal” night after school starts this month. That would also give students a chance to meet the two new assistant principals, Steve Thompson for the sophomore community, and Donnell Tenner for the seniors.
Among physical changes at the building, Hoots has told custodians he wants to spruce up the place and put more emphasis on school pride.
“There’s not a lot of reference to school colors or the mascot,” Hoots said. “I want to change that, create branding that will identify us as Eisenhower Panthers and being proud of being an Eisenhower Panther.”
Hoots was just what the district was looking for, said Assistant Superintendent Lisa Mann.
“He had the broadest range of experience and the most experience as a high school principal,” she said. “We were really looking for a veteran in this area, someone used to school reform efforts in large urban high schools. His experience in Springfield is similar and he had vast experience working with at-risk students in alternative education. He’s someone we felt could come in and take off.”