The new assistant principal at L.J. Hauser Junior High School comes from the same school as Hauser’s new principal. On Aug. 18 the Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education voted unanimously to hire 34-year-old Jason Smit as the new assistant principal, replacing Stacy Westin, who resigned her position last month to take a new job.
Smit and new Hauser Principal April Mahy worked together at Hickory Creek Middle School in Frankfort. Smit was a technology teacher and Mahy was the assistant principal at Hickory Creek. Both Mahy and Smit will be new to Hauser this year, but they know each other very well which could aid their transition.
“I respect and think very highly of April Mahy, and when an assistant principal position was open I thought it was a good step for my career in joining such a highly regarded school district and community,” Smit said. “She was my assistant principal for nine years. It was one of those things where it was just kind of a nice opportunity to work along someone who I completely trust, I believe in. I think she’s a great leader.”
Smit also served as the athletic director at Hickory Creek. He spearheaded the assessment coordination in his previous district.
“He brings a lot of enthusiasm and innovative ideas,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Merryl Brownlow.
Smit was chosen from a field that included one finalist who was an internal candidate, Brownlow said.
A hiring committee made up of Mahy, Brownlow, three Hauser teachers and three Hauser parents made the recommendation to hire Smit.
Smit, who grew up in Berwyn, graduated from Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights. He earned a master’s degree in instructional technology from Purdue University and did his student teaching at the International School of Tanganyika in Tanzania. While in Tanzania, Smit climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain at 19,341 feet.
Smit will be paid $75,000 a year. The Hauser assistant principal position has been shifted back to a 10-month job.
His technology background will come in handy right away, because last week Hauser’s instructional technology specialist, Paula Tousignant, suddenly resigned after being assigned to teach two sections of a computer programming class this year. Last year Tousignant did not teach. Her main role was to work as a technology coach for Hauser teachers.
“She did not indicate where she’s going,” said Co-Interim Superintendent Griff Powell of Tousignant’s resignation letter. “We’re scrambling.”
Two Hauser teachers will teach one extra class, for the commensurate extra pay, to staff the sections that Tousignant was going to teach.
Smit will help out.
“I’ll be mentoring the teachers filling those classes, using curriculum that I’ve used in the past, and suggestions and so forth,” Smit said.
Tousignant’s sudden departure continues the shakeup in District 96’s technology staff since Director of Technology Don Tufano joined the district in 2014. Last year, Liz Whaley, who had served as the district’s point person for its one-to-one laptop program, was moved out of that job and made the gifted teacher at Ames School.
Powell indicated that the district could fill Tousignant’s instructional coaching duties by hiring a part-time employee.