GREENFIELD — Nowhere does news spread faster than a junior high.
As of Tuesday morning, Principal Harold Olin hadn’t announced that he is leaving Greenfield Central Junior High next school year to become the new district superintendent, but that didn’t stop the word from traveling. Fast.
Students and staff alike stopped Olin in the halls of the junior high Tuesday to congratulate the longtime principal on the big promotion. Olin, who has been a principal for 15 years – 14 in G-C schools – was all smiles.
Word began to spread Monday night after the Greenfield-Central School Board announced its intention to hire Olin to replace Linda Gellert, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Olin, 42, has verbally accepted the position, though a contract has not yet officially been approved; that will happen at a public meeting Feb. 26.
Olin said his cellphone blew up with messages from well-wishers after the announcement was made.
“It was kind of exciting,” he said. “There was quite a buzz in the community.”
The news is still settling in for Olin, too, who was offered the job earlier in the day during an unexpected visit from school board President Retta Livengood.
“It was out of the blue,” Olin said. “It was going to be great or disappointing. I’m certainly elated that it worked out the way that it did.”
Livengood said the board had spent months screening candidates before selecting Olin.
“The decision of our next leader is vital to the success of our kids,” she said. “You don’t want just anybody.”
Though Olin might have been tempted to share his good news after Livengood’s visit Monday morning, there was one person he knew he would not immediately tell – Lori, his wife of 20 years.
Lori teaches kindergarten at J.B. Stephens Elementary, and Olin said he didn’t want anyone pestering her before an official announcement had been made.
“She does not have a poker face at all,” he said. “She would be the first to tell you.”
The Olins’ love of education is something both share with their families.
Olin’s father taught for 29 years in Southern Hancock Schools, and his grandfather retired from Mt. Vernon schools as the corporation’s business manager in 1984 after working in many capacities, including as athletic director, teacher and principal.
Lori Olin’s parents were also both educators, as was her grandmother.
Olin said there’s no doubt being surrounded by leaders in the education field had an effect on his career choice.
He graduated in 1993 from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, then went on to obtain his master’s degree in educational administration and supervision in 1998. He got a superintendent’s license three years ago and finished his doctorate in December.
Olin said he always had an eye on those who came before him.
“Seeing my father and grandfather have influence over youth and really enjoying their jobs certainly had a role in what I did,” he said.
Today, Olin said he looks forward to leading in the community where he grew up and spent most of his teaching career.
Olin, a 1989 Mt. Vernon High School graduate, lives in Greenfield with Lori and their three children. He has served as principal in four of the district’s eight buildings.
Early in his career, he taught social studies for Mt. Vernon schools and also worked briefly in Warren Township.
It was his work locally that stood out to board members.
One of Olin’s most notable achievements, Livengood said, was his ability to shape the identity of and lead staff at the junior high, which opened in 2010 after the district moved to a four-tier system that divided its middle schools into two intermediate schools and one junior high.
Olin is the only principal the junior high has known.
Over the years, Olin has earned a reputation as an organized leader who treats his staff with fairness, said Darcy Carr, science department chairwoman at the junior high.
Carr was one who wrote a letter of recommendation for Olin when he decided to apply for superintendent.
Carr was hired by Olin in 2007 when he was serving as principal at Maxwell Middle School (now Maxwell Intermediate School). She followed Olin to the junior high in 2010 when the middle schools were split.
“He’s an excellent leader, and so I feel like it’s going to be a loss for our school, but I’m happy for him because it’s what he wants to do,” she said. “… The school corporation as a whole will definitely benefit from his leadership.”
Carr said she’d been nervous, waiting to learn whether the board would see in Olin what his staff does.
Olin’s support stretched far beyond the building, however, she added.
Carr said she spoke with teachers from other schools who were also pulling for her boss.
“We were all hoping for him,” she said. “Everybody I know has been hoping for him to get the position.”
Among Olin’s supporters is Bill Hacker, who has known Olin for 20 years.
Hacker was working as a teacher at Maxwell Middle School when a young Olin, then just a college student, came in to do his student teaching.
Today, Hacker teaches under Olin at the junior high. Tuesday, he stopped his boss in the hall to wish him well on the new position and tease him about the old days.
Hacker said he was glad the board recognized Olin’s years of service to Greenfield-Central and promoted someone from within the corporation.
Olin said he expects the next few months will provide a smooth transition, as he’ll be able to work closely with Gellert and shadow her in her remaining months as superintendent.
Gellert said she has confidence in the board’s decision and is looking forward to helping Olin get started in the coming weeks.
“I know he’s eager to learn,” she said. “I’ve just been so proud that he rose to the top and is going to be able to assume that leadership. It will be a true pleasure for me to work with him.”
Olin said he’ll miss the day-to-day interaction with students, but being at the district’s helm will allow him to reach the students in a new way.
“You still do that; it just looks different,” he said.
Gellert said she plans to stay in Greenfield upon retiring and looks forward to seeing Olin grow in his new leadership position.
“I believe he will take our schools to a whole new level,” she said.