New principal wants to learn the names
New Ellis Middle School Principal Jason Senne already knows what his biggest challenge is in this young school year: Learn the names of all the approximately 1,050 sixth- though eighth-graders in the building.
"That's something that's very important to me, to recognize students by name," Senne said. "It helps create that safe atmosphere. Letting the students know that they can approach me."
He said he prides himself on learning students' names, and it helps them to know that there's an adult who cares about them.
Not only does Senne have all the students' names to learn, about one-third of the staff at Ellis is new this year (24 total, 18 teachers). He said he knows that Ellis has quality teachers.
Senne has a couple weeks under his belt in his new role. He's been with Austin Public Schools since 1996 and most recently worked as an assistant principal at Austin High School, where he'd worked since 2008 with juniors and seniors and the Area Learning Center. He spent his first nine years in the district as an elementary school teacher.
He was hired for the Ellis job in August following the resignation of then-principal Katie Berglund. Senne returns to Ellis, where he previously taught seventh- and eighth-graders and was dean of students.
What's given Senne a leg up is that Ellis already had a strategic plan in place for the building's needs. Literacy will be a key focus this year. Staff are also starting something new — connecting with 20 seventh-graders they've identified who need support during and after school from an academic coach.
With the construction of I.J. Holston School just to the east of Ellis, some issues have arisen for Senne. Students are curious about the construction, plus the physical education department will need to improvise and find other ways to get outside for class.
Ellis is also feeling a crunch this year in the building.
"Space is a big issue for us right now," Senne said, with so many students in the building.
As far as changes, Senne said he'd like to prepare Ellis for when it becomes a seventh- and eighth-grade building next year so students are able to make a closer connection with Austin High School. He wants to establish Packer Pride within the students to prepare them for the high school years.