Johnstown Independent

New high school principal

Heath appreciates the arts, notes year of transition

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MARLA K. KUHLMAN/THISWEEKNEWS
Michael Heath is the new principal of Johnstown-Monroe High School, replacing Kim Jakeway, who retired.
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A love of music helped attract high school principal Michael Heath to Johnstown-Monroe High School.

Heath replaces Kim Jakeway, who retired. The school board approved his employment July 15, and he'll receive a salary of $75,000 plus benefits.

"I honestly didn't know a lot about Johnstown," Heath told ThisWeek. "I realized the arts are huge in this area. As a musician myself, that totally intrigues me. Being out of the classroom (as an administrator), I've missed the artistic part."

As the son of parents who were officers in the Salvation Army, Heath said, he has played an instrument since he was 5.

"I knew I wanted to do something in music," he said.

The 47-year-old is accomplished on the cornet, but he learned how to play numerous instruments because he initially planned to be a band director.

Heath received a bachelor's degree in music from the University of Louisville in 1989. He worked as an elementary school music specialist from 1992 to 1997 for the Union County Board of Education in Morganfield, Ky. He also worked as a music specialist from 1998 to 2002 for the Henderson County Board of Education in Henderson, Ky.

Heath received a master's degree in education from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., in 1990 and an administrative certificate from Murray State University in Murray, Ky., in 2000.

"I had a mentor as a teacher, and he thought I should go into administration," Heath said.

He worked the past four years as principal/administrative officer for the Tomorrow Center Community School in Edison.

Serving as administrative officer of the community school is similar to the role of a school district superintendent, he said, with such duties as director of instruction, special-education coordinator, federal-programs coordinator and financial manager.

Heath also served for three years as principal in a juvenile correctional setting at Hickory Grove High School through the Marion Juvenile Correctional Facility.

In his 21 years as an educator, Heath said, every school at which he has worked has raised its test scores.

In Johnstown, he sees areas of strength and weakness in academics, he said.

"There's room for growth at the high school," Heath said.

The 2013-14 school year began Aug. 19 with about 530 students at the high school.

"All space is being utilized," he said. "We need more electives, but we don't have space for another teacher."

Despite the full capacity, teachers already were delivering content by the second day of classes, Heath said.

"Teachers are making sure students are getting the education they deserve," he said.

This year will be one of transition and change, according to Heath.

In addition to a new high school principal, the district has an interim superintendent in Thomas Slater, and longtime music director Jeff Rings is in a new role as dean of students.

"I can't emphasize how much there's a transition," Heath said. "It causes some confusion. The (high school) schedule has changed, adding a new period for a total of eight periods."

He said change could be tough, but it also could be good.

Heath grew up with change, having attended nine different schools before he graduated from high school.

"We lived no more than four years in one place," he said. "We traveled the southern 15 states, from Texas to Kentucky."

Although his resume shows a variety of experience in various educational settings, Heath said, he changed positions only for promotions or to move closer to home in southern Indiana.

Heath said Johnstown's school board, staff, students and parents have been wonderfully supportive.

"They're happy I'm here," he said. "That's refreshing."

Overall, Heath said, Johnstown's students have been positive.

"I stand outside and welcome them," he said. "They are wonderful kids."

Heath said he looks forward to Johnstown traditions, such as the Varsity Show and Friday night Johnnies football games.

Heath said he previously refereed high school and college basketball and soccer games. He gave that up several years ago, he said, because his knees gave out.

He and his wife, Valerie, enjoy bicycling, he said. They are the parents of two grown sons and have one grandchild.

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