After spending the past two years as a high school administrator, landing a job as a middle school principal might seem like a step back. But for Johnny Billingsley, who was hired last month as the new principal for George Washington Middle School in Brookfield-Lyons District 103, it’s like going back home.

“It’s the perfect set up for me,” said Billingsley, who will take the reins of the school starting July 1. “I wanted to be a middle school principal, and I wanted to continue my work in a diverse community. My favorite time as an administrator has been in a middle school setting.”

For the past two years, Billingsley, 35, has been an administrator in Bloom Township High School District 206. He was hired in 2009 as the assistant principal for the district’s alternative school, which serves students with emotional disabilities and students.

In 2010, Billingsley was named principal of the alternative school, which has an enrollment between 70 and 90 students. Billingsley, a Sauk Valley native, is a graduate of Bloom Trail High School and received his bachelor’s degree in education from St. Xavier University in Chicago.

Billingsley has a master’s degree in curriculum from Olivet Nazarene University and an M.A. in educational leadership from the University of Phoenix.

For the three years prior to his time in Dist. 206, Billingsley spent time as an assistant principal at two middle schools in North Carolina and as an assistant principal for a middle school in Arizona.

Dist. 103 Superintendent Michael Warner said Billingsley was chosen from a field of 60 candidates who applied for the post at George Washington Middle School. Thirteen of those applicants were interviewed by a panel of 13 people comprising middle school teachers and administrators.

“One of the most important criteria was that the candidate have high expectations for students,” said Warner. “That came through loud and clear. He has high expectations for students to achieve at even higher levels.”

Warner said Dist. 103 was looking for someone with a background in curriculum and instruction.

“He set those parameters at Bloom and was in middle school leadership roles in curriculum and instruction,” Warner said.

Outgoing Washington Principal Michael Kent, who submitted a letter of resignation to the Dist. 103 board back in January, focused on student discipline and creating a positive school atmosphere during his three years there.

“He did a great job calming the school down and there are fewer disciplinary issues,” Warner said. “I’m now confident of student behavior, and we can focus on curriculum and instruction.”

The District 103 school board voted unanimously on March 21 to hire Billingsley. He was given a one-year contract with a starting salary of $93,000, said Warner.