There’s a new leader at Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School, a person who vows to be “highly visible,” “highly engaged,” and to “raise expectations.”
Phillip K. Woods, EdD, was named Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School’s new principal last week, replacing Candee Nagy, an assistant principal who had served as acting principal, after Kevin Murray resigned last August.
Woods, who most recently was principal at West Mifflin Area High School and, prior to West Mifflin, was principal at the former Hebron Elementary School in Penn Hills, is coming into a school district that has been a hotbed for controversy.
Murray was placed on administrative leave after he was heard via audio recording in late 2016 threatening to knock the teeth out of a then-14-year-old Woodland Hills student. Even after a public outcry, the Woodland Hills School District Board voted to make Murray the school’s football coach in early 2017.
But Murray ultimately decided to walk away from both the head football coaching position and principal of the school.
Also making news in the district was the number of students that have been killed by gun violence, most recently the shooting death of 17-year-old Antwon Rose II by East Pittsburgh police Officer Michael Rosfeld, June 19.
“The school and community have experienced a great deal of hardship, specifically this past year. My plan is to accentuate the positive aspects of the school and community,” Woods told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview, July 10. “I want the community to recognize the accomplishments of the students of Woodland Hills, as they receive their training to be successful in the real world, while giving back to their community.”
“Every student deserves access to a quality education, and I believe I can help facilitate that. My upbringing, educational background, professional experience and will to succeed are all a perfect match to the challenges of the Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School.”Woods completed his doctorate degree in Education, Administration and Leadership studies from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in 2017. He earned a Master of Education degree from Slippery Rock University in 2003, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from IUP in 2000.
PHILLIP WOODS, EdD
Woods hopes to provide stability to the Woodland Hills community, which encompasses communities such as North Braddock, Braddock, Swissvale, Rankin, and Churchill.
“One of my philosophies is high visibility, high support,” Woods said. “I will be highly engaged and I need those parents to welcome that approach, and I need them to mirror that and be highly engaged (as well).”
The Woodland Hills School District recently saw the resignation of its superintendent, Alan Johnson, effective June 30. A month prior, a panel of community leaders, parents and educators submitted a series of recommendations to the board, which could improve the schools. Those recommendations included hiring more minorities as employees, possibly removing school resource officers (school resource officer Steve Shaulis was accused of punching a 14-year-old student in April 2017), and implicit-bias training.
With all the troubles, Woods admitted that some people asked him why he wanted to become principal at Woodland Hills. “My response is why not?” Woods told the Courier. “Every student deserves access to a quality education, and I believe I can help facilitate that. My upbringing, educational background, professional experience and will to succeed are all a perfect match to the challenges of the Woodland Hills Junior/Senior High School. I look forward to building upon the positive initiatives currently established and making improvements to any deficient areas. Once I have a grasp of the culture, we will grow together socially and then academically to continue to heal the community.”
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