Elementary principal Chris Briggs is leaving the New Albany-Plain Local School District, and his departure could be the first of several changes in the structure of the elementary administration.

Elementary principal Chris Briggs is leaving the New Albany-Plain Local School District, and his departure could be the first of several changes in the structure of the elementary administration.

Superintendent April Domine recommended at the school board's July 25 meeting that Madeline Partlow, the district's director of teaching and learning, replace Briggs this school year as grades 4-5 principal at the elementary school. Briggs is taking a job as Columbus City Schools' regional director of schools. He will be in charge of 23 buildings.

"Given only a few weeks until school begins, it is not feasible to conduct the extensive search that is necessary in order to find a highly experienced leader to fill this important position," Domine wrote in a memo to the school board.

She said the district should then advertise Partlow's position and find interim help until a new director of teaching and learning can be hired.

"The first and most important consideration had to be, 'How do we ensure that we have experienced principal leadership ready to start the school year and continue our programs?'" Domine said.

As a long-term solution, Domine has prepared a two-year plan to implement a new administrative structure at the 2-5 elementary building. The building has 1,500 students, 125 staff members and two principals: one who oversees the second and third grades and one for the fourth and fifth grades. On average, elementary schools in Ohio have 350 students and operate with a principal, an assistant principal and 40 staff members.

Domine's proposal is to hire a head principal for the elementary building and keep two "support" principals in place.

The "support" designation is important, she said, because assistant principals usually are new to the position and learning the job. Considering the size of the 2-5 building, she said, the support principals must be experienced. They will be responsible for evaluating staff members and the positions could play to each person's strengths.

For example, 2-3 principal Robin Ryan has a strong background in gifted programs. Domine said if Ryan were one of the support principals, the district could take advantage of her strength in that aspect of education.

Board member Natalie Matt said Domine's idea made sense, especially because the district's gifted population is growing. Domine said 20 to 23 percent of students qualify as gifted, according to the district's standards and the percentage increases if students are evaluated according to the state's standards.

Domine said she wants to advertise the head principal position nationwide in October, and she would want to interview candidates by January. She said a new head principal could be on board by June 2012, which would better define the duties of the support principals.

"If we can identify a head principal, we can engage them in planning what the best (administrative) structure looks like moving forward," she said.

Communications director Jeff Warner said Domine, as superintendent, can move people into different positions, such as replacing Briggs with Partlow, but she cannot create a new position without approval from the school board.

The board did not take any action July 25 to create the new head principal position, though board vice president Laura Kohler said Domine's plan sounded solid and "allows us to access a number of different roles and continue our forward momentum."

Kohler recognized that Domine already has talked to elementary staff members about the new position and asked Domine to talk with some parents about it, as well.

Meanwhile, Partlow has multiple years of experience as a principal. She was a Gahanna elementary principal for four years before coming to New Albany-Plain Local, where she first worked as a middle school principal.

She told Domine in March that she enjoyed working in the buildings and would like the opportunity to go back to being a principal. She said after serving for a principal on leave last school year, she felt rejuvenated, working with the staff and the students.

"Being in the building again with the kids is a great thing, too," Partlow said.

Domine asked for the board's permission to post Partlow's job. She said she would request interim help for the position from the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio.

The district already has an ESC employee in the human-resources department to fill in for director Cara Riddel, who left in July. The district has changed Riddel's former position to chief of innovation, improvement and human capital, and the board reviewed and approved the new job description July 25. The position already is being advertised nationwide.