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New West Campus principal: ‘A privilege to be in this role’


Principal Shalah Sims is shown in her office at the West Campus.
Westside Pioneer photo
       Shalah Sims, an assistant middle school principal the past four years in District 11, is the new principal for the West Campus.
       She said she is “excited” about the opportunity, not just because it's her first time being a principal but because of the unique aspects of the school itself. The word “campus” is a district nickname for the building housing both West Elementary (grades K-5) and West Middle (grades 6-8), which are separate schools. No other D-11 building is like that.
       Also, Sims described herself as a “history buff” intrigued with the classic building design of West, which was originally constructed as a junior high school in 1924. “I love being in an old school, and I'm thrilled to be here at the West Campus and part of the Westside community,” she said. “It's a privilege to be in this role.”
       She also welcomes the non-traditional one-building/two-school scenario, believing that it “creates possibilities that you don't necessarily have in a regular school.” As an example, she pointed out that the transition from fifth to sixth grade can often be difficult for youngsters because it means going to a completely different school. But at West, Sims noted, the promotion “is not as big a jump” because they're staying in the same building.
       Another upside in the format is the chance for older students to serve as “positive role models” for the younger ones, she noted.
       Based on last year's numbers, West's combined building enrollment will exceed 600 students - about 280 in the middle school and about 350 in the elementary.
       Sims plans to continue the organizational template established by Judy Hawkins, who served as the first principal of both the elementary and middle school over a two-year span that ended with her retirement after 2014-15. Like Hawkins, Sims will have her office roughly equidistant from those at the entrances for both schools, and she will oversee an assistant principal (AP) at each school who will handle its day-to-day activities.
       Handling the AP positions for 2015-16 will be Karen Newton at West Middle, returning for her third year; and newly hired Noel Wilson at West Elementary, a former classroom teacher with assistant principal experience in District 20, according to Sims.
       The middle-school AP position came open because Chris Lehman, who held that post the past two years, was hired as the principal at King Elementary in D-11.
       Another key member of the West Campus leadership team in 2015-2016, Sims noted, will be Rebecca Gallegos, the counseling coordinator, who will oversee that department and organize testing and scheduling. Sims previously worked with Gallegos at North Middle School.
       Here's another North connection: Between 2011 and 2013, Sims had been the AP for Hawkins, who was the North principal before being assigned to West.
       Sims described education as a “second career” for herself. Originally from Sacramento, California, she has a masters degree in social work and was employed for some years in that capacity while living in different parts of the world as a military spouse. After a break to start a family (she has two children), Sims began volunteering at her kids' schools, and this led to her being hired as a social worker in District 20 in 2003.
       She earned a principal's certificate in 2009. Working as an AP, she followed up her time at North by serving the past two years at Russell Middle School.
       D-11 officials finalized Sims' hiring near the end of June, after the initial choice - an out-of-state candidate hired after a national search - had to turn down the job for personal reasons, according to D-11 spokesperson Devra Ashby.

Westside Pioneer article