Nicole Whitesell Prepares for Another Big School Year
New director of secondary education gets into the swing of things for the 2011-2012 year.
She completed her 12th year as principal for McCluer High School, received the 2011-12 St. Louis Area High School Principal of the Year award from the St. Louis Association of Secondary School Principals and she was promoted.
On July 1, Whitesell took over the position of director of secondary education for the Ferguson-Florissant School District.
But deciding to apply for the position didn’t come without its share of worries and hard decision making.
“To me, I could have seen myself finishing out my career as a building principal at McCluer,” she said. “But I saw it as an opportunity to help the district in a different way and help kids in a different way. It’s much like as a teacher, ‘Why do you decide to become an administrator?’ Well, you want to make a bigger impact on kids.”
Whitesell rose quickly to an administrator position early in her career. After working as a math teacher for Hazelwood Central Senior High School for four years in the mid 1990s, the principal selected her to serve in a dean of students’ role in addition to her teaching duties.
At the end of the year, she decided to pursue an administrative role full time and became an assistant principal at McCluer High School in the Ferguson-Florissant district.
A year later, she became interim principal and then principal.
In her newest position, Whitesell works with all of the secondary schools and principals and works to support Art McCoy, the new district superintendent, in his vision.
For her, the transition to work with McCoy has been seamless. They’ve worked together for the past three years when McCoy served as the assistant superintendent for secondary education.
“We know each other, and he knows how I work—my style, what I have to bring to the table, my strengths, my weaknesses per se. And that’s a huge plus for both of us and for the district,” she said.
McCoy adds, "She has a wealth of experience at a very ripe age because she was one of the youngest principals in this region at age 28. She has over a decade of principalship experience. She’s going to do wonderful things with secondary education."
When school begins on Thursday, it will be the first time in Whitesell’s 18-year career that she’s not in a school building on the first day.
“I think it’ll be weird, definitely to not have that,” she said of being principal or teacher on the first day. “It’s also just that anxiety of making sure everything is good to go, making sure that first day is smooth.”