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Espy leaving DHS for Tuscaloosa position

Demopolis High School principal Dr. Isaac Espy Jr. was approved by the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education on Tuesday to become the principal at Northridge High School.

Espy is scheduled to begin his duties at the school on June 1, pending procedural completions. He is replacing Edward Jaynes, who will be transferred to an unassigned teaching position. Espy would be the third principal at the school, while Jaynes is returning to the classroom as a math teacher.

Demopolis City Schools superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers said he has not yet received a letter of resignation from Espy, and the Demopolis board has not had an opportunity to accept it. The next scheduled meeting of the Demopolis City Schools board of education will be this Monday, May 18, at 5:15 p.m.

Espy was hired as the principal at Demopolis High School on June 17, 2005, beginning work on July 1 of that year. During his tenure at DHS, the school earned the No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Award in 2008, one of only three high schools in the state to earn that achievement.

Espy oversaw the beginning of the dual enrollment program between DHS and Alabama Southern Community College, which allows DHS students to get a head-start on their collegiate careers while in high school. He also led the ACT camps at Demopolis High while allow students to work to get a high score or get an improved score on the all-important test.

He was named the 2008 Citizen of the Year by the Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce at its banquet on Feb. 2.

Espy talked about some of his highlights at the helm of Demopolis High School.

“Any human being who is a part of a national Blue Ribbon school is not someone who is in the top 1 percent or the top 1 percent of 1 percent,” he said. “You’re in the top 1 percent of 1 percent of the top 1 percent. That is a mountaintop experience for all those who are involved here. The students and faculty here would certainly make any administrator look good.

“Being listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s top high schools was a great experience. Being honored as Citizen of the Year was an extremely humbling experience, and one that I wouldn’t take anything for.

“Yet, the things that I will remember and will be most proud of will be the day-to-day joys of working with these students and with the parents here, working with the community,” he said. “If you don’t thrive being in there among the students, you’re in the wrong business. Those same things that the students take from their high school careers and write in their yearbooks and remember and value are the same things that I will.”

On Jan. 20, the Demopolis board of education voted to renew Espy’s contract for four years, a move that fit into his existing life plan until the opportunity opened in his hometown.

“I grew up in Tuscaloosa; Tuscaloosa is my home,” he said on Wednesday. “My parents are there, my sister and her family are there, my son lives there. It is home. Sometimes, things happen in life, and they don’t ask you first, and they do not require your permission to happen.

“I came to Demopolis with high hopes, and those hopes were exceeded. I did not anticipate this opportunity coming up, but it did. It didn’t consult me prior to being available. Life is not an exact science, and sometimes, we are confronted with decisions that will keep us up all night. This is one that has certainly been a struggle in a way. In another way, it is an opportunity that may only come once in my career. It was a decision I made after many, many hours, days, weeks and months of thought.”

Tuscaloosa City Schools superintendent Dr. Joyce Levey talked about her decision to hire Espy.

“We were very fortunate that we had over 70 people apply for this position,” she said on Wednesday. “We do a site-based interview committee for every principal in the system. It starts with tenured and non-tenured teachers, parents and central office staff. They do the interview process, and they send to me the top candidates out of the pool.

“We interviewed eight to 12 of those candidates that we felt had experience, the knowledge, the intellect, the grace that could carry that school. The site-based committee’s charge is: If they send the name to me at the superintendent level, it needs to be someone that they can all live with.

“We had two shining candidates, and Dr. Espy was one of those two,” she said. “The two top candidates that I met with one-on-one were informal meetings. During that meeting, Dr. Espy exhibited a philosophy of how all children can learn, have a right to learn. He had a philosophy that — by working and building your teachers, your aculty and staff, your parents and communities — any objective that a school wanted, any goal that it wanted could be achieved.

“I think his energy, along with his intellect and understanding of human relationships, gave me the confidence that he would be able to take Northridge at the high level they are in success to another level of growth.”

Espy said that while he is leaving Demopolis, he will take a part of the school and community with him.

“I love this school; I love this community,” Espy said. “I’ve been treated well here. I’ve been treated better than I deserve here. Demopolis has truly been very good to me. I am extremely proud of what we have done here, and a day won’t go by where my thoughts won’t return to Demopolis High School. This faculty is a great faculty and the student body has been a joy to work with.

“My fondest wish is that the next person who comes in this office far exceeds what we’ve done here, because that means that I’ve been effective. If there’s a dropoff, that means that I really have not done a good job, but I fully anticipate that someone will come in here, and they’ll have a great, great job. They will be very fortunate to be chosen as principal here.”

Espy came to Demopolis from Hubbertville High School, where he served as the principal from 1998 to 2005. Before that, he was the athletics director and assistant principal at Scottsboro High School from 1995 to 1998.

He returns to his hometown of Tuscaloosa, where he served eight years at Central High School East in Tuscaloosa from 1987 to 1995. At Central East, he served as the athletics director (1994-95), Saturday school director (1993-95) and interim assistant principal of the 1991 summer school program. He began his career in education at West End Christian Academy in Alexander City as a math teacher from 1986 to 1987.

“Dr. Espy is coming into a school with a wonderful learning community,” Levey said. “We just see great things with him taking it to another level and replicating many of the things he has done at Demopolis High.”

Northridge High School opened in 2003, and is classified 6A in athletics. It is one of five schools in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system, along with Central, Oak Hill, Paul W. Bryant and the Tuscaloosa Center for Technology.

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