Central High School will have a new principal for the first time in fifteen years. Earlier this year, SAISD hired Lake Belton High School principal Jill Ross to replace the retiring Bill Waters. Her first week on the job was earlier this month. In her first interview with a local outlet, she talked about why she is excited to lead Central.
Editor's note: This interview has been slightly edited for clarity.
sanangelo.news: What was it about this job and this community that made you want to make a move from Belton to San Angelo?
Jill Ross: My husband has worked in this community for almost four years and always speaks highly of it. He loves the people here and has had a great experience. When I was offered the position at Central, I was intrigued. I had previously worked at Belton High School, and our daughter had played at Central before when she was in high school and its quite interesting that I already knew about the school's excellent reputation and history. What I love most so far is that the community stands behind the school and wants the students to be successful.
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sanangelo.news: How has your experience at Belton High School and opening Lake Belton in 2020 shaped how you want to lead Central?
Jill Ross: Everything that one does in a career prepares them for the next step. Walking into Central is slightly like when I walked into Belton High School. Because it was a big 6A school. It had a freshman campus, just like Central on Oakes. It had shuttles going everywhere, just like we have here at Central. And so that was very similar. And even the student enrollment is very similar.
Opening Lake Belton allowed me to see how engaging the community can build support and tell the story of the campus. You mentioned that we opened in the fall of 2020. So that meant we worked to open in the spring of 2020. So we utilized everything that we had when we were all at home. So we engaged the community. And we're using social media in order to not just tell our story but to engage the community. And so that's something that I'm hoping opportunities like this will give me a chance to do is to engage with the community.
And so when I started officially that week of the 1st of July, we started building some social media channels. So we have an Instagram account. We have a Twitter account. We already had a very active Facebook page which is awesome. I think every avenue reaches a different audience and serves different purposes. So that gives us the opportunity to connect.
sanangelo.news: How will you build a supportive community that celebrates the entire school, including fine arts programs like choir, band, and theater, different academic programs, and not just athletics?
Jill Ross: The most important role that my team has is that we need to encourage connections with fine arts and academics.
We have a winning history in UIL academics, which is huge. Part of connecting with the community is ensuring they know what's happening. So that's number one. And that is hard. That's probably the absolute most challenging thing. We've got to figure out what connects with families and the community here because what might have worked at one school or one district, it's not necessarily going to work here. The most critical piece, however, is to become a part of the community, which is more complicated when coming from the outside. And part of it is also being present at those events. So when there is a choir concert, it's intentionally being present in the audience or saying hello to people rather than just being there to work as the administrator.
sanangelo.news: Besides Mr. Waters, there are a couple of other retirements at Central at the principal level. Angela Gossett is joining you on the administration team, so you are not the only new principal to work at Central this year. What excites you about working with your administration team and faculty/staff? What is your leadership style look like?
Jill Ross: I just wanted to take a moment to give a shout-out to Angela Gossett. She's truly amazing, and I feel so lucky to have her on my team. It's interesting how times have changed, and it's not as common for people to stay in one place for 30 years anymore. But I believe in a participatory style of leadership where everyone has ownership over decisions. It's important to have an interesting mix of people on the team, like we do now.
It's important to honor the work of those who have been here for a while and know the community well, but also to listen to new voices. It's all about melding both sets of voices to support each other. The kids at Central are truly amazing, and it's all thanks to the teachers. We should continue to build upon the legacy and strive for excellence. There's always room for improvement, and we should keep pushing forward.
sanangelo.news: How can students and parents build a strong relationship with you? Any tips or strategies?
Jill Ross: One thing is when you see us out, please introduce yourselves. Because remember, there's one of me and... 3, 000 students, and then all the families that go with them. And have a little grace because if I met someone once, I might not remember them in a different place a month later. Another thing is to be willing to let us know when something's not going perfectly. Because sometimes people think, "Oh, I'm not going to say anything," But then they get upset. Then we didn't know what we didn't know. So I think that that's a part that's difficult. I always try to put myself in the position of a parent. And so, as a mom, I have two grown adults, but they were children at one time. And so I always want to think about what it would be like if my son was having that situation or my daughter was having that experience. How would I feel, and what would I want people to do? And I think that it's hard to be responsive when we don't know what's going on.
sanangelo.news: What would you like the San Angelo community to know about you?
Jill Ross: I'm very excited to be here. In fact, I was telling my husband today that I'm ready to be here, like it's time to be here and make that a big start, and so it's really exciting to have that. I'm looking forward to the time when we have our adult children here and to show them what San Angelo is like. I am honored to be chosen to be the principal at Central. I want to do a good job for my kids and my staff, and my community.
sanangelo.news: Last question. So how is the closet coming along? Do you have a lot of orange and blue now?
Jill Ross: I have thankfully received many hand-me-downs. So that's good. Yeah. And I've been able to find some pieces along the way. I will say that I'm learning to wear orange, and thankfully, it's a really hot color this year.