Interim principal at D’Evelyn High School ready for the challenge

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Change — both personally and professionally — has come quickly for Josh Griffin.

In the span of just a few years, he’s gotten married, he and his wife have a baby daughter, and he has shifted from being a history teacher to assistant principal to interim principal at D’Evelyn High School.

When former principal Anthony Edwards left mid-year, the school’s steering committee brought Griffin on as a temporary fill. He then was asked to stay for the 2017-18 school year.

It was a lot at first, but Griffin quickly stepped up to the role, evolving from a member of the school’s leadership team to the leader of the school. Prior to his several-month “trial period,” Griffin didn’t realize how different the two administrative roles could be.

“There’s a big transition from assistant principal to principal,” he said.

As an assistant principal, he was required to know a lot about a specific group of kids — that was seventh- and eighth-graders for Griffin. But principals have to know quite a bit about what’s going on in every area of the school.

Assistant principal Beverly Haynie worked with Griffin on the administrative team for six years, and she thinks of D’Evelyn’s new principal as thoughtful and reflective.

“He’s very calm and rational in his approach,” Haynie said. “So he likes to analyze things and look at the big picture.”

Griffin may have been thrust into a difficult situation, but Haynie said he handled it with grace.

“He definitely rises to the occasion and handles pressure very well,” she said. “Externally, you would never know he was stressed. I’m not sure what was going on internally. But he just fit right in and stepped right up to the position.”

Griffin’s goals

As a former swimming coach, history teacher and assistant principal, Griffin finds himself in a unique position to lead. He’s worn many hats and understands the school well.

Griffin attended Santa Clara University and received a business degree. He later received a secondary teacher’s license from the University of Denver and a master’s in administrative leadership from the University of Colorado-Boulder.

Working in education may not have been his initial plan, but it just felt right when he was hired on as a D’Evelyn teacher 11 years ago at age 24.

“I felt like, ‘Why didn’t I do this all along?,’” Griffin said. “It was the right fit, and it was certainly the right school.”

Now, as a principal, Griffin hopes to reconnect with D’Evelyn’s roots in liberal arts education.

The coursework is challenging. Most of the classes are survey in nature, and D’Evelyn does not offer a lot of elective courses.

“The goal is for our kids to graduate with a good foundation so that they can then go and study whatever,” Griffin said. “They’ll be thoughtful people with a good, broad-based understanding of the world regardless of what they pursue.”

Some challenges come with the variance in age of students at the school. There is a stark contrast between an 11-year-old seventh-grader and a junior or senior in high school.

But overall Griffin sees it as a positive for the school.

“We can establish expectations, good foundational skills in junior high,” he said. “It does afford us a very good opportunity to get those expectations out there so they can be successful in our high school program.”

Edwards leaves

Griffin replaced Edwards, who served as D’Evelyn’s principal for eight years. In mid-February, Edwards was found guilty of one misdemeanor count of third-degree assault and one misdemeanor count of harassment after a two-day trial. A judge sentenced him to two years of probation and 60 hours of community service, according to district attorney’s spokeswoman Pam Russell.

Following the guilty verdict, Jeffco Public Schools placed Edwards on paid administrative leave.

Dan Cohan, the district’s achievement director, said D’Evelyn’s steering committee was the one who selected Griffin as Edwards’ replacement.

“They’re really the ones that made the decisions regarding continuing Josh Griffin, instituting him as interim and then continuing Josh as interim principal for next year,” Cohan said.

The steering committee has decided to go through a full interview process for the permanent principal position beginning in early 2018. Griffin is welcome to apply for the position, and though it will take consideration, he is planning to as of now.

It is unclear whether Edwards resigned or was fired from his position and when this decision was made.

“I will choose not to answer that,” Cohan said when asked.

Craig Hess, the district’s legal counsel, declined to comment, and Diana Wilson, spokeswoman for Jeffco Public Schools, didn’t return a request for comment before press time.

Griffin called the situation “difficult,” but despite the unexpectedness of it all, he’s up for the job.

“Being afforded the opportunity to lead a great school like this one is not something that comes around every day,” he said. “(It’s) not necessarily the timing or method I’d have chosen, but I do relish the opportunity to be a great leader and continue the great things that are going on at D’Evelyn.”

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.