Meet the District's New Administrators for the 2023-24 School Year
The School District of University City is pleased to announce the following administrative leadership changes for the 2023-24 school year.
Karen Jones is the new Interim principal of Flynn Park Elementary School for the 2023-24 school year. Jones brings a wealth of elementary school experience to the interim position, having served as a network superintendent for St. Louis Public Schools since July 2015, where she provided support to 13 elementary school leadership teams. She retired from SLPS this past school year.
At the start of the 2024-25 school year, Darion Murdock will become the permanent principal of Flynn Park. Mr. Murdock is a University City High School (UCHS) graduate with fond memories of attending Hawthorne Elementary School and Brittany Woods Middle School. He is a student-focused leader and educator with 19 years of experience. He is currently the principal of Jury Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District, where he has cultivated relationships to build a unified community among students, staff, parents and caregivers of varying backgrounds. His leadership includes cultivating trauma-informed practices, strong teacher and staff professional learning and evaluation, restorative practices, and rigorous student and staff expectations.
Jim Triplett is the new principal of Jackson Park Elementary School. A 2019 inductee of the University City High School Hall of Fame and a member of the Class of 1996, he will be replacing Dr. Rebecca O'Connell. With more than 10 years of experience as an educational leader and educator, Mr. Triplett comes to us from St. Louis Public Schools. He has an impressive record of improving academic performance in both urban and suburban school settings. He is particularly skilled in elementary school leadership, instructional coaching, academic data analysis, staff and community engagement and restorative justice practices.
New Executive Leaders
Dr. Rebecca O'Connell is the new assistant superintendent for human resources. O'Connell has been a leader in the District for nearly 19 years. She most recently served for eight years as principal of Jackson Park Elementary School. Previously, she served as the director of curriculum and instruction and as the K-12 communication arts and social studies coordinator.
Dr. Artondria Bentley is the District’s director of special programs in support of districtwide multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS). This is a new administrative position designed to ensure all students are recognized and served so they receive the academic and social emotional support to learn and thrive at school. Bentley was most recently the District's partner director with the Special School District of St. Louis County.
Wendy Gilliam, an administrator with the Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD), is the District's new partner director. She oversees a team of more than 50 SSD teachers, professionals and paraprofessionals embedded in our schools to educate and support students with special learning needs. Gilliam most recently was the principal at Gateway Science Academy in St. Louis where she served in the role for almost 10 years.
Olu Mitchom is the District's new executive director of operations, replacing Karl Scheidt who recently retired. Mitchom, a professional engineer, previously was the facilities manager at the U.S Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis. Prior to that, he was the senior engineer in the facilities management department of Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville for nearly a decade.
Other Administrative Changes
Nikole Shurn is the new Lieberman Learning Center (LLC) alternative learning experience coordinator at the high school. She fills the spot of former Director Dr. Paula Sams, a long-time contractor with the district. Shurn most recently served as the District’s well-being director. Prior to that, she worked for Wyman as an embedded wraparound services specialist serving students in the District.
Lawndale Thomas is the District's new athletic director. He replaces Matt Brooks who recently retired. Thomas most recently served as the UCHS dean of students and has more than 20 years of experience coaching and leading students.
Dr. Valerie Carter Thomas is the new assistant principal at University City High School (UCHS), replacing Associate Principal Kim Austin, who recently retired. She brings more than 30 years of teaching and leadership experience from St. Louis Public Schools, serving for 15 years as building principal for the Northwest Academy of Law and Social Justice. Over the last two years, she provided administrative support to Barbara C. Jordan Elementary School and UCHS.
T-Herbert Jeffrey has rejoined the UCHS administrative team as the dean of students. He most recently served as a Missouri Options instructor at the Lieberman Learning Center. Prior to that, he was an assistant principal at the high school and, prior to that, was an assistant principal at St. Louis Public Schools.
Ife Williams is the new eighth grade assistant principal at Brittany Woods Middle School. She is returning to St. Louis after a year with Kansas City Public Schools where she was an assistant principal on the NorthEast Middle School administrative team. Prior to that, she was a science teacher for four years at the KIPP Inspire Academy in St. Louis where she served as the sixth grade level chair.
Darrin Young is the new sixth grade assistant principal at Brittany Woods Middle School. He most recently worked in the Columbia, Missouri public school system, where he was a learning recovery teacher guiding students in a restorative practices environment to develop problem-solving and behavioral skills. Previously, he worked for four years with Jefferson City public schools as a teacher, assistant activities director and head basketball coach.
Pablo Flinn, most recently the eighth grade assistant principal at Brittany Woods Middle School, has transitioned to the operations department as assistant director of buildings, grounds and logistics to oversee school facility needs, program events and student experiences that accelerate the District’s vision of Learning Reimagined.