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New district principals ready to take on obstacles

Samantha Little, principal of South Hill Elementary School, working with her secretary Jeannie Miller before the school day begins.
New district principals started working at South Hill and Beverly J. Martin Elementary in late August; for BJM students and faculty, a newfound stability is found after having three principals the past three years.


Susan Eschbach, principal at BJM, was hired for this new position after the resignation of Linus Guillory after one year. According to Eschbach, Linus Guillory left BJM in order to work closer to home and his family. Denise Gomber, who was a principal prior to Guillory, worked at BJM for 10 years.


Third grade teacher Eric Reiff is pleased with the new leadership at BJM.

“She is everything an elementary principal should be like and that is warm, welcoming and open. And those are three words I would not use to describe the previous principal,” Reiff said.


Eschbach started in her new position in late August, but is a familiar face in the Ithaca community with many goals for the upcoming year.

“My goal is to develop deep thinking and analytic skills with these kids,” Eschbach said. “The ability to read, write and think mathematically will help with innovation and change in their futures. You can’t solve problems without deep thinkers, and that’s what I’m looking to develop.”


The PTA Welcome Back Barbeque on Thursday, Sept. 12 gave the PTA and parents an opportunity to share their goals for the year with the new principals at their respective schools. Both principals stressed the idea of maintaining a strong community.

“I think gaining an awareness of the community and being able to be supportive and sustain in the midst of change and to really honor the wonderful work that [faculty and staff have] done, but also look at ways to move forward I think will be a delicate balance,” Samantha Little, new principal at South Hill elementary, said.


PTA member Fred Horan said Eschbach seems to be a good fit within the BJM community.

“She seems much more engaged with both teachers and the community than the previous principal was and I really appreciate that, though we’ll see how it goes of course because she just started,” Horan said.


With a new core curriculum at the elementary level, Horan also said the true test of Eschbach will be how they raise test scores among students. Eschbach is also working with supplementary academic programs.

“She gave us a nice, bright room and made it so everything has access to us so I think she is great,” said Jodi Washington, who is the director of the Bright Futures program at BJM and the parent of two children at the school. Since the beginning of the program in 2011, Bright Futures had been moved into three separate rooms with each new principal.
Yet, it is still early on in the school year for parents and faculty to fully informed opinions on each new leadership position.

“I don’t know much about her as a principal yet, but as a teacher she is dynamite so I am excited,” said Julia Dietrich, who has a six-year-old daughter and knew Eschbach from her previous position as a health teacher at Boynton Middle School.


John McNally, physical education teacher at Boynton Middle School, worked closely with Eschbach.

“Susan was always coordinating, and she did it so well,” McNally said. “She was able to see the big picture and put things together. She did a great job of creating an environment for kids to feel comfortable. Boynton lost a great teacher, but BJM gained a great principal.”


Caitlin Clancy, AIS and math teacher at Boynton Middle School, agreed that Eschbach would be missed.

“The position is a really good placement for her expertise,” Clancy said. “We know [the principal’s position] is where she wanted to be. We wish her the best of luck.”


Samantha Little, principal at South Hill elementary school, has her own set of challenges to overcome as a first time principal.  She also said that the challenges South Hill will face are very similar to those of BJM.

“ [It’s about] getting to know your community and then trying to collaboratively with your community develop what your school-wide goals are,” Little said.

Little said she would work collaboratively with the community through “listening and learning.”


Little was previously the associate principal at Ithaca High School before accepting her new position at South Hill.


Although there is a gap between high school and elementary education for Little, she is passionate about her work and does great things, Jarrett Powers, Ithaca High School principal, said.

“I think Samantha’s big challenge would be the high school to elementary, but she knows elementary because she is a mom,” Powers said.


Some past initiatives Little worked on at the Ithaca High School included anti bullying programs, as well as sport-caused concussion awareness.

Though both principals have been hired from within the Ithaca city school district, they both will be adjusting to their new school communities in the months to follow.

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