Hurt chats with Dean Tonja Killingham  outside of York during the daily bus send-off.
Hurt chats with Dean Tonja Killingham outside of York during the daily bus send-off.
ThisIsYork Staff

New principal astonishes community with connections to students and staff

Jessica Hurt has reached her 100 day mark as principal, impressing York in her success interacting with the school

This year, York is under new leadership; Jessica Hurt has taken the role of principal and has been working hard to get to know everyone who is part of the York family. From introducing herself at school wide events to visiting tables during lunch periods, she is striving to introduce herself to students and staff alike.

Previously serving as the former assistant principal for curriculum and instruction at Hinsdale Central High School, Hurt took York’s opening for principal, due to Shahe Bagdasarian taking a new position at Oak Lawn Community High School as superintendent. One of her top priorities, especially in the beginning of the year, is ensuring all students feel comfortable with her.

“I want to make sure students know who I am,” Hurt said. “Not only so I can help them as a resource but also I’m selfish and want to be able to say hi to students in the hallway and have them know who I am so we can talk.”

When Hurt went around to division meetings toward the end of last year, teachers had the opportunity to meet with her. She seemed to make a good impression showing she was ready to get started.

“She’s definitely different from the principal we had in Dr. Bagdasarian,” social studies teacher Timothy Albert said. “She was full of life and joking around and that’s a good thing because you need somebody in a position of leadership like this that can toe that really fine line between humor, having a good time and it’s a serious job. She seems from my first impression of her to have that ability to be a real person.”

Some students will even admit that getting a new principal wasn’t news they were looking forward to at first, but those who have gotten to know her have changed their minds.

“I was already a little apprehensive about getting a new principal but I like the way things are going,” junior Allison Poku, student council member, said. “Getting to know her a little better gave me a lot more confidence in what’s coming.”

To become an administrator was a difficult choice for Hurt due to her love for working with students so closely as a teacher, yet she wanted to try something new. She believes it’s important to have students know she’s there for them because she is more than qualified to lend a helping hand.

Academics did not always come easily for me,” Hurt said. “Which I think makes me a better teacher because I know what it’s like to struggle.”

Adding a new member to the administration team could improve the way York operates. Before being granted an administration position, those individuals who were teachers before moving on in their career, bring in a point of view that can be helpful when deciding what students need.

“I think that at heart I am a teacher,” Hurt said. “I always put students first and I think sometimes we miss that when it comes to administration.”

Hurt has contributed to many decisions in York’s policy changes since this past spring, before she even stepped into office at the start of the school year. She is clear that every choice is considered to be in all student’s best interest.

“A lot of it is about making sure we, as adults, have high expectations for students,” Hurt said. “Then also to show a high degree of support for students.”

There are some concerns about these policies and Hurt is aware how students, staff, and community members are reacting. Student council had the chance to meet Hurt last spring before the rest of the student body, getting a sneak peak of what she might’ve had in store.

“I think some of the new policy changes have definitely changed everyone’s perspective,” Poku said. “With her being so friendly and welcoming, people could really change their view of her when she starts to get around the school more.”

Not all community members are on her side with the policies being different. She hopes to come around to students because these changes are for the better, though change can be hard to get used to right away.

“I know it feels like we took something away from students,” Hurt said. “That’s certainly not what makes me popular or what we want students to feel.”

Most teachers on the other hand seem pleased with how the year is starting off when considering how the policies are working. The rules have increased stability and growth in positive outcomes compared to years before.

“I’m happy that she seems to be about enforcing rules,” Albert said. “We’ve had problems with that but it seems to be much better this year so far.”

As students get first hand experience of how the policies play out, some are able to open their minds up and see the benefits. Hurt’s objective is trying to make sure students profit from what York has to offer as a high school.

“It’s going to be a struggle but I do see why she made the changes,” Poku said. “I see why those changes were necessary to push students to be more responsible over their academics.”

In the 100 days since Hurt began her position at York, and District 205 Superintendent of Schools Keisha Campbell believes Hurt has put her best foot forward, especially when connecting with people who are a part of the school.

“I think she should be most proud of the relationships and the connections that she has built,” Campbell said. “York is a huge school community, and there’s a lot of stakeholders attached, from staff to students to parents. I think she should be proud of her ability to, in a short amount of time, navigate and learn and listen and be visible.”

Campbell is pleased to have Hurt be a part of the York family and is excited to see what she has in store for the next 100 days and beyond.

“That’s just really, really exciting to me,” Campbell said. “Knowing that we brought a leader in from a school community that she was entrenched in and had been in for a really long time and wanting her to feel a sense of now this is home.”

Hurt mentioned that since the beginning, York has felt like a right fit and how she’s overall thrilled to be the newest part of the community. She has happily changed her color from red at her past school to York’s very own kelly green.

“I’ve learned that there is such a strong sense of pride among the staff and students around the community at York and that to me just solidifies my reason for being here,” Hurt said. “The past couple years have been really hard for students and teachers so if we can make York a place where all students and staff want to be, that’s certainly my goal as principal.”

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