For the second year in a row, Danville High School looked down the hall to find its new principal.
The school's site-based council decided in a meeting Thursday to hire Aaron Etherington, who served as assistant principal during the 2011-12 school year.
Etherington, 34, will take over for current principal Ed McKinney officially on July 1. McKinney, who was Danville's assistant principal before being hired for the top job, moved on to the central office as the district's new director of pupil personnel.
The site-based council reviewed 14 applications and interviewed four candidates before offering the job to Etherington, according to Superintendent Carmen Coleman, who also acts as the council’s chairwoman.
“Today’s principals fulfill a very different role,” Coleman said. “They have to be very strong academically. Aaron is extremely strong in that area and he is highly respected by the students and his colleagues at the high school.”
Etherington came to DHS in 2005 and worked for six years as a teacher and head of the social studies department. He said he will draw on his experience in the classroom to set the bar high for everyone involved with educating students at the high school.
“I’m a teacher first,” Etherington said. “I look at my primary role as being a teacher-leader. That means acting as a role model in the way I value education. It means helping other teachers reach their potential so students can reach theirs.”
Coleman got an insider’s perspective on how much respect Etherington elicited among his students with his challenging courses when her step-daughter was in his class. Coleman said students became loyal to Etherington because of his high expectations, not in spite of them, which she believes also will be true of the faculty.
The most recent graduating class showed a marked step forward in scores on the ACT, the college preparedness test the state adopted as a measurement tool in 2008. The 20.3 average ACT scores put the school 30 out of 230 high schools in the state, and the two-point improvement over the previous year was tied for the second largest jump in the state.
Both Coleman and Etherington expect that momentum to continue.
“My primary initiative is to build on the strong tradition of academics, arts and athletics Danville High School has been known for throughout the state, and also across the nation," Etherington said. "Recent student achievement data supports what we've been doing, and we know exactly what we've done over the last two years. We want to set students up to be successful in the 21st century, to be successful in the global economy and to be successful in a rapidly changing world."
Etherington said part of the blueprint in place now includes asking teachers to further their own education by observing their peers in classrooms across the country who are having success with experiential education programs.
Etherington said he also hopes to continue implementing technology — which he called a game-changer for instruction — in ways that free teachers to practice their crafts as artisans in the classroom.
"The administration, really from the superintendent down, has encouraged a climate that offers teachers opportunities to take risks and think outside the box without fear of being penalized for it. And the teachers have really embraced that," Etherington said.
In addition to his teaching experience at Danville, Etherington was an assistant boys basketball coach for five years and assistant athletic director for four years.
Prior to coming to Danville, Etherington taught for six years at Providence High School, which is now part of the Webster County consolidated school system. A native of Providence, Ky., he holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Murray State University.
Etherington and wife Crystal have a 21-month-old daughter named Reese.