NEW PALESTINE — Every teacher, parent and student will admit having the right person running a local school is key to a happy and productive community. Imagine getting that kind of leadership job — an administrator in education — the year COVID hit.
That’s exactly what happened to New Palestine Elementary School principal Kayleigh Fosnow who after years of dealing with COVID restrictions is finally starting to feel at home.
After working for 10 years in the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) system as a classroom teacher then a special education educator, Fosnow landed her dream job as an administrator in the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County.
She started out as the assistant principal at NPE for a year and was promoted to the top spot when then-principal Katy Eastes left to work for the Southern Hancock administrative office.
Fosnow’s first year in the administrative role at NPE, 2020, she had to operate the school during the pandemic, which called for a great deal of flexibility, patience and organization.
“It was quite the year with COVID as I had to hit the ground running,” Fosnow said. “But, the one thing about Southern Hancock is all the tremendous support you get from the other principals and the corporate team.”
Fosnow, now in her 30s, has made New Palestine her home, moving here with her husband and two small children. She’s originally from Brazil, Ind., and likes the small-town feel. When her position in the IPS system was ending, she looked high and low for the right fit and discovered a new start in Hancock County was perfect for her personal and professional life.
“I do want to raise our children here and let them go to New Palestine schools,” Fosnow said. “It’s one of the reasons we moved here because this school system is so special.”
Fosnow was forced to leave her job with IPS when the school she was with turned into an innovation school, meaning it would no longer be considered a IPS school.
“My heart is in public education so when my job at IPS was going away, I started looking elsewhere and I found this little Town of New Palestine,” Fosnow said. “We drove through the area and just fell in love with it here, and I was fortunate enough to get a job in the district.”
Now that she’s here, Fosnow plans to stay. She wants to make the most of working for a district with high standards and living in a place she has come to call home.
Fosnow, who graduated from Indiana State University, has educational experience in culture and climate, which deals with disciplinary procedures. However, her true passion is academia and student curriculum. Her favorite thing about leading the staff at NPE is supporting the teachers.
“I knew I wanted to be a building leader to support teachers,” Fosnow said. “I knew when I was a teacher how important that was to get that support from the leadership team and now I can give it.”
That includes having her staff come to her for anything they need to make the teaching experience the best it can be for the educators and students.
“My favorite part about school is teaching and when I became a leader, I knew I wanted to support my teachers,” she said. “We want to see every kid grow and learn, but we also know our kids are more than a test result.”
Despite COVID, Fosnow noted there were areas where students saw growth, but she said there are also areas of learning she wants her staff and students to focus in on as a team.
“We’ve got some good intervention teams and it’s a kind of an ‘all hands on deck’ type of philosophy,” she said. “These kids are our families and we want them to grow.”
They’re doing things like starting the “SOAR” program where every student gets instruction to grow where they are.
“It’s not just for kids who struggle but for all kids, including the advanced kids, since they deserve that chance to grow and be challenged too,” Fosnow said. “That’s really powerful.”
Fosnow works with assistant principal Nik Giant to help the teachers and students as best they can. That included meeting with every teacher and checking in on every student this year.
“If a kid is falling behind, we wanted to know why and we took a deeper look into our students,” she said. “It took a lot of time, but we believe every kid deserved it.”
Under Fosnow’s leadership, the school has started a “Spotlight” feature where they showcase the great people working at NPE.
“This is the first time in three years where we’ve got people coming back into our buildings, taking part in our programs, so a lot of them don’t know our staff as well as we want them to and we wanted to make sure everyone knows them and all the neat things they do,” Fosnow said. “We want people to see that personal side of our teachers.”
Since the first three years of being a leader had such a serious side in dealing with COVID issues, Fosnow said this year it’s all about bringing fun back to the classroom and the school.
“We want to make sure there is positive energy and that we’re all aligned with the same vision,” Fosnow said. “Just this morning, we kicked things off dancing to YMCA.”
Fosnow said it’s been great living and working in a small town, and that she’s here for the long haul and loves the interaction with the community inside the school and outside of it.
“Going to things like the Christmas Parade or Match Day and seeing the families and the kids I work with in the community has just been so rewarding,” Fosnow said. “It was a little shocking at first because when I worked in IPS, I lived in Greenwood and I never saw the kids or families, but here it’s everywhere and I love it.”