Nathan Baxendale was named new principal of McCormick Middle School on Monday in a unanimous vote of the Wellington board of education.
Baxendale, of Medina, will work under a two-year contract that pays $65,000 annually and begins Aug. 1.
He comes to Wellington after serving as principal of Brunswick’s St. Ambrose School from 2014 to 2016.
Prior to that, he worked as a history teacher at St. Joseph Academy in Cleveland from 2007 to 2013 and as assistant principal at Fairlawn’s St. Hillary School during the 2013-2014 school year.
After taking a year off to attend to family matters, Baxendale said he’s eager to get back to work.
“I was really looking for a place that met criteria I look for professionally and personally,” he said. “Wellington is a close, tight-knit community that really wants nothing more than safe and effective education for its kids. After talking with teachers and the superintendent, there’s a lot of room for all of us to contribute to that for years to come.”
Wellington was one of many Lorain County school districts to see its grades fall in the latest round of Ohio report cards, coming in at a D overall and receiving F’s for progress, elementary reading, and gap closing.
Concerns with those results, comments from disillusioned parents, and rumors his contract would not be renewed led to Craig Housum resigning as McCormick principal May 24.
“The first thing I want to do as a new administrator is work with everyone who’s been here,” said Baxendale. “That can be other administrators, teachers, parents, and community members. I want to get a sense of the climate not just at McCormick itself, but also of the entire district and the entire community.”
“Once you have an idea of the strengths, concerns, and areas for growth, then you can really sit down with all the stakeholders to help the school grow,” he said. “The test scores fall into that but also a huge variety of social and emotional things kids go through from fourth grade to eighth grade.”
Baxendale said the speed at which students of all ages can access information is one of the biggest changes in how administrators and teachers approach their jobs compared to 10 and 20 years ago.
“The availability of information and realities of society weren’t out there for us like this when we were kids,” he said. “As an administrator or school staff member, that means you’re dealing with questions from students that you didn’t used to hear. I’ve always tried to have a very transparent open door policy with all students, parents, and community members.”
“Sometimes educators like to get to a new place and say, ‘We know best. We went to school for this so just do what we say,’ he said. “I can’t speak for any of the past administrators in Wellington, but I really just want to come in here with an open door, open ears, and open eyes.”
Through a hiring process that included meet-and-greets with Wellington teachers and parents, superintendent Ed Weber said Baxendale distinguished himself from other applicants.
“Nathan’s interviews and presentations were top-rated,” Weber said. “The parent feedback had him as their top choice. The teachers did their own poll and he also came out on top there. Everything lined up for Nathan across the board and he also had the most previous experience as an administrator. We’re more than happy to have him here.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.