By Adonis Williams
Princeton High School is preparing for an overhaul of its administration.
Current Clark Jr. High principal James Lovelady is making the switch to become the school’s new principal, replacing Rene Mullins, who is moving to an assistant superintendent role after two years leading at PHS.
“Everything I did in college led me here,” Lovelady said. “The sports and the extracurricular activities all guided me to the position I am in today.”
Growing up watching his father serve as a school principal had a big influence on the way he viewed teaching.
“It was strange growing up,” he said. “I would say I could never do this. I believed teachers weren’t as highly looked at as other career paths I could take, but in reality, teachers don’t get half as much credit as they should; when they do so much for all of us.”
Lovelady explains the disadvantages and struggles he will be sure to have during the new era of his career.
“The number of students adds on to everything the school has,” he said. “The extended variety of activities and staff members almost triple the amount at Clark. And I will have to learn to adapt to the older students, because if you treat the high school students the same way you treated the junior high students, you’d get laughed at.”
Lovelady said he has been working toward this new role.
“This was my ultimate goal from the beginning,” he said. “To start small. To prepare myself for bigger and better things to come; like being the principal of a high school. And I will work the hardest I can to make the school the best it can be for the students and the staff.”
Varsity basketball coach Jeff Coburn will join Lovelady at PHS, replacing assistant principal Nichole Powell, who leaves PHS to lead Harper Elementary. Coach Coburn has coached basketball in Princeton for 13 years, six as head coach, but he is taking the opportunity to achieve another goal since childhood.
“This has been something that’s always been a goal of mine,” Coburn said. “But there will be a big difference now. As a coach, I knew those 50 students, where now there’s a thousand more for me to interact with. I care about all the students here.”
Over the years, Coburn has kept every one of his teams in good health, care and well-disciplined. When asked if his past experiences as a coach will help him discipline the students, he was quick to clear the differences between the two positions.
“As a coach, the way you discipline your team is completely different than if you were the assistant principal disciplining a few or more students,” Coburn said. “They’re both discipline. But in some situations, I do think that it could help.”
Coburn’s main influence on coaching was former Panthers Coach Robert Erger, who was the head basketball coach while Coburn was his assistant for several seasons. He said Erger’s way of coaching and interacting with the students had the biggest influence on his decision to coach. Helping and interacting with the kids was his ultimate goal.
“Becoming an assistant principal would never change the way I interact with the students, because I will still be Coach Coburn,” Coburn said. “But it will give me the opportunity to connect with all the other great students I never had a chance to meet.”
Mr. Lovelady and Coach Coburn join forces with the only remaining administrator from this year, assistant principal Rich Boring, who will continue in his position.
“When I was first told the news, I was sad I wouldn’t be working with Miss Powell and Mrs. Mullins anymore, but I am excited that they will be on their way to do bigger and better things,” Boring said. “I’m excited for Mr. Lovelady to join the school having done such a great job at the junior high. I know he has great intentions.”
The school’s administration will not be the only thing changing in the next couple of years. The school will be going through major reconstruction inside and out to make it the best it can be for everyone involved.
“The expectations for the school will be as high as it’s always been with new leadership. The staff will be as professional as they can, with kindness and respect for each other and the students as we have been,” Boring said. “We are ready to keep the school running.”
Senior Sean Stepan spoke out about having Lovelady join PHS.
“Having Mr. Lovelady here is a big step, but the greatest,” Stepan said. “It would be cool to see him everyday again because most of us seniors had him as a coach or principal longer than anyone.”
In reference to Coach Coburn’s resignation as the varsity basketball coach, Stepan couldn’t contain his happiness that Coburn will be doing bigger and better things.
“It’s all kind of bittersweet,” Stepan said. “It’s sad I won’t get to see him on the sidelines every game anymore, but I’m happy he will be doing something that’s a step up from what’s he’s been doing.”
Coburn will have a lot of adjusting to get used to the new routine, but incoming senior basketball player Ryan Purcella said respect for his former coach increased greatly since the news.
“My respect for him has increased more than I ever thought it could,” Purcella said. “He moved from being a basketball coach, to accepting a job to be an assistant principal. I know he loves playing ball and coaching it, but for him to say yes to this offer; I have a very high level of respect for him that will never go away.”
Adonis Williams is a PHS Journalism student and the story above is being featured as her final project.