With a track and field background, it’s no surprise Aaron Floyd describes his new role at Seymour-Redding Elementary School using terms from that sport.
The 37-year-old compares the way Seymour Community School Corp. has approached leadership among administrators to a 4-by-100 relay.
Steve Bush, who had been the Redding principal until moving to Seymour High School this year, took the baton, and Redding had a lot of momentum going.
This school year, Floyd is principal at Redding, taking the baton from Bush. Since the initiatives and goals haven’t changed, Floyd said the speed didn’t slow down and momentum is staying up.
As the new assistant principal, Ashley Stahl is considered the third leg of the relay, supporting Floyd in his efforts of leading the school.
“My goal will be that that baton doesn’t slow down and that handoff happens seamlessly and you don’t lose momentum,” Floyd said. “I think that’s great for your kids and it’s even better for your staff because then they are not having to figure out these new things. It’s just you have that continuum of service, and things are just going to keep going.”
While he has taken off running in his new position, Floyd said he never pictured himself as an administrator.
Born in Seymour and raised in Jennings County, he grew up with a father, Carlyle Floyd, who was a guidance counselor at Jennings County Middle School. That exposure to education led to Floyd following that career path after graduating from Jennings County High School in 2002.
He earned a degree in health and physical education from Ball State University in 2006 and was on the Cardinals’ track and field team.
Floyd’s first year in education was at Shawe Memorial in Madison and then Southwestern (Hanover). Then he went to Seymour High School, where his wife, Jessica Floyd, was teaching family and consumer sciences.
After spending several years teaching health and PE and assisting with the strength and conditioning program at SHS, Floyd was encouraged by Principal Greg Prange and Assistant Principal Talmadge Reasoner to consider leadership opportunities.
In 2014, he became dean of students. The next year, he completed a master’s degree in educational administration and leadership from Ball State.
Once he became dean, he chose to give up his role as assistant coach for the track and field team due to the time commitment. Plus, his two sons, Braylon and Beckham, were involved in sports.
“I started being able to be invovled in coaching with them,” Floyd said. “I’m still being able to feed that desire with them.”
In 2016, Floyd moved to Redding as assistant principal under Bush.
“It was never on my radar,” he said of becoming an administrator. “If you would have told me I was going to be at an elementary, that was never on my radar. Certain things happened and certain people came into my life and encouraged certain things.”
Going from the high school level to elementary was a whole different approach, Floyd said.
“Especially Seymour High School, it’s got so many moving parts, it’s a large campus,” he said. “So really, my first year when I came in (at Redding), it was a whole lot of not saying a whole lot, but just sitting, taking it all in, watching the differences in how classrooms function.”
His goals were to become familiar and acclimated with the new environment and building a rapport with students and staff.
Having the chance to work alongside Bush was one of the best things that happened, Floyd said.
“I think one of the main strengths he has is his people skills,” Floyd said of Bush. “When you think about running a building, a lot of times, you think about the X’s and O’s, logistics, these different things. What I had a chance to get from him and Mr. Prange, as well, was that human capital investment.
“To see how (Bush) interacts with the staff and the students and to build that building culture, that became evident and so much more of an emphasis and helped me to understand when you invest in your staff, the other things will follow,” he said. “That has been a primary focus for me when I worked with him, and then continuing that on after he has moved on is just that building of our culture.”
Making Redding a building where kids want to come and enjoy learning and where staff want to come and work has always been a priority for administrators, and Floyd said that will continue under his leadership.
“I think how you do that is by the way you treat them,” he said. “The best advice I got from Greg Prange was you hire great people and you get out of their way and let them do their job, and I’ve tried to do that and just check in on them and be of service when you can.”
This year, the building theme is “Strive.” That word is being broken down by letter each month, starting with S for service.
“I think leadership is service. It’s not a position,” Floyd said. “It’s what are you doing for others and how are you serving them and making their jobs easier so they can do those things, seeing how to lead people by being of service to them and to build that culture so people feel like they are supported and can be able to do their jobs and feel like you are supportive of that.”
Stahl back where she started
While Stahl is in a new role at Redding, she’s not new to the school.
She began there as a kindergarten teacher in 2013 and remained in that position for four years until transitioning to instructional coach for three years.
Then this past school year, she was assistant principal at the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center.
“My first year as a school administrator was exciting,” Stahl said. “Each day looks so different, as there are many hats that come with being an administrator. Mrs. Loriann Wessel, principal at Seymour Sixth Grade Center, was a great mentor. She guided me along the way and trusted me with many things to really help me grow in my first year.”
The pandemic, however, added many challenges throughout the year, including social distancing, quarantines, masking and hybrid student schedules.
“I cannot say enough great things about the staff and students at the Sixth Grade Center and all staff and students at Seymour Community Schools,” Stahl said. “Every time there was a change, our staff and students embraced it and continued to move forward.”
The pandemic gave Wessel and Stahl the opportunity to look at times in the building that students congregated in large groups, such as arrival, dismissal and lunch.
“We had to rework those times so that students were socially distanced,” Stahl said. “As a new administrator and new to the Sixth Grade Center, it really helped me get to know the ins and outs of what a day looked like from the time our students arrived until they left our building.”
When she learned Bush and Floyd were moving into new roles this school year, Stahl said she was on the fence about applying because she loved being at the Sixth Grade Center.
“After a lot of thought, I knew my heart was in elementary, and the opportunity to go back to where I started was something that I couldn’t pass up,” she said.
“Going back to where I began my career as an educator means so much to me,” she said. “Many of the teachers and staff I know already, and I am looking forward to getting to work with them again. There are also many new faces at Redding, and I am excited to get to know them throughout the year.”
She was familiar with Floyd in her role as instructional coach when he started at Redding.
“I really enjoyed getting to work with him then, so I knew I would enjoy working beside him as the assistant principal,” Stahl said. “When it comes to leading Redding, I am looking forward to working with our staff to continue our mission of making Redding a place where adults enjoy working and students enjoy learning.”
Floyd said he was fortunate to have leaders in place to show him the ropes and know how to establish principles and continue to develop them, and he hopes to do the same for Stahl.
“I had some great leadership, and I’m trying to pass on a lot of those things that Steve did for me,” Floyd said. “I told (Stahl) when she came over here, I think so much of her, I would have been her assistant principal. She’s that good.”
Stahl may someday have an opportunity to move up to a principal role, and Floyd wants to help her reach that goal.
“I think that whenever that were to happen, she would step right in,” he said. “If anything, she might be that anchor leg and it even speeds up a little bit quicker.”