Students across McKinney will converge on MISD campuses early Thursday morning by car, bus, bicycle and on foot to kick off the 2019–2020 school year. As they arrive, they’ll find MISD campus administrators, teachers and staff eager to greet them and get the year underway.

It’s a day that principals and their staff have been looking toward since school dismissed at the end of May. Over the summer, some new faces have joined the campus administrative teams—as well as some familiar faces in new roles.

“We are really excited to bring on these new campus leaders,” said Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Student Support Suzy Woodard. “They bring a breadth and depth of different experiences to their campuses that will really impact those schools in a positive way. They’ve got energy, enthusiasm, excitement and great ideas. I feel like everybody is in the right place, and we’re really looking forward to a great year.”

Elementary Principals

Rachel Constantinescu—Principal, Press Elementary  Rachel Constantinescu, who served as assistant principal at Bennett Elementary for the past five years, is the new principal of Press Elementary. The position became available earlier this summer when previous Press Principal Chris Clark left to pursue an opportunity with another district.

And, while it may take a little time to get the pronunciation of Constantinescu’s name just right, the Press Elementary community will discover quickly that she is an outstanding educational leader.

Constantinescu began her career 19 years ago as a fifth grade teacher in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. Five years later, she came to McKinney ISD to join the staff of Slaughter Elementary as a third grade teacher and remained in that role until 2011 when she transferred to Burks as an instructional coach.

In 2014, Principal Amy Holderman brought Constantinescu on board as assistant principal at Bennett Elementary where the two have led approximately 50 staff and well over 500 students each year for the past five years.

“Rachel has been absolutely amazing as the assistant principal to our students, staff and parents,” said Holderman. “She is professional, dedicated and hard working. Her passion and desire to assist and serve others is truly a gift and asset to our school and the entire district. I am beyond proud and excited for Rachel to begin the next chapter in her professional career as the new principal at Press Elementary. They are getting someone truly special who will continue to do great things for their campus and McKinney ISD.”

Even as she reflected on her time at Bennett, Constantinescu looked eagerly forward to the possibilities ahead.

“I am grateful for the many experiences I have had throughout McKinney ISD that have brought me to this moment,” said Constantinescu. “There have been many people that have poured into me, and I will never forget these five years at Bennett. I am especially thankful for the mentorship of Amy Holderman. Bennett is an amazing learning community with strong history, relationships and academic success for all students, and I look forward to continuing to build on this at Press as well."

“The Press community has great staff and parent support which creates a strong learning environment for every student,” she said. “I am honored to join the Press family and continue the legacy that has been established by the strong leadership at this campus. I am so excited to get to know all of the students, parents and staff. The best is yet to come at Press!”

Constantinescu earned her bachelor’s degree in Bible and elementary education at Baptist Bible College and her master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Texas–Tyler.

Matt Arend—Principal, McClure Elementary Matt Arend is the new principal of McClure Elementary. With a career in education that spans nearly 20 years, Arend is a seasoned campus administrator who has served as principal of Sigler Elementary in Plano ISD for the past eight years.

The McClure principal position became available when then McClure principal, Melanie Raleeh, was chosen by the district as the new principal of Walker Elementary.

Arend comes to MISD from Plano ISD where he began his career in 2002 as a fifth grade teacher at Centennial Elementary. He served in the classroom there for five years before moving into the ranks of Plano’s campus leadership in 2007 as an assistant principal, first at Hunt Elementary and Hickey Elementary and then at Mendenhall Elementary. He was then hired as the principal of Sigler Elementary, where he has served for the past eight years.

Under Arend’s leadership, Sigler achieved Level I certification in the Marzano High Reliability Schools framework last year and has been recognized by the Texas Principals’ Institute as a “Schools Transforming Learning” nominee and winner.

Arend is a Wonderopolis Lead Ambassador and has presented at numerous professional gatherings including the National Association of Elementary School Principals Conference and the National Center for Families Learning Conference.

While 2019 brings a new campus and a new district, it’s a bit of a homecoming for Arend. “I am very excited to become a McClure Marshal!” he said. “As a long time resident of McKinney, I feel like I am coming home. At my core as a leader, I believe the relationships we create as a school community will continue to build upon the great experiences and opportunities already afforded at McClure Elementary. I look forward to continuing the traditions that exist there and being a part of the dynamic school culture which focuses on engaging the head, heart and hands of those they serve.”

Arend earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Peru State College in Nebraska and his master’s degree in educational administration from the University of North Texas.

Elementary Assistant Principals

Kassie Halpin—Assistant Principal, Bennett Elementary Following Rachel Constantinescu’s move from the assistant principal position at Bennett Elementary to the principal job at Press Elementary, Bennett now welcomes Kassie Halpin as the school’s new assistant principal.

Halpin comes to MISD from Allen ISD where she began her career 11 years ago as a fourth grade teacher. Since then, she has also served as a student success initiative teacher and a leadership team member and most recently as an elementary campus intervention specialist.

Now, she moves into a new leadership role as assistant principal.

“We truly are a school family at Bennett Elementary,” said Bennett Principal Amy Holderman. “And, we are so excited to welcome Kassie as a our new assistant principal. She brings so much enthusiasm and possesses extensive knowledge and expertise at the elementary level through her experience as a classroom teacher and intervention specialist. She has a big, servant’s heart and a willingness to do whatever it takes to serve the amazing students, staff and parents at Bennett Elementary.”

Halpin holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Dallas and a master’s degree from Lamar University.

“I am looking forward to a wonderful school year as a ‘New Bear!’” said Halpin. “I could not be more excited to be part of the Bennett family and serve our families.”

Justin James—Assistant Principal, Malvern Elementary  New to the Malvern Elementary leadership team this fall is Assistant Principal Justin James who will work alongside Principal Rhonda Gilliam and Assistant Principal Rhonda Hamilton. The position became available when former Assistant Principal Gilberto Salinas accepted a principal position with another district.

“We are pleased to welcome Justin James to our Malvern family,” said Gilliam. “Mr. James comes with a wealth of curricular knowledge and an admirable desire to excel in all he does. He has an ability to connect with people, see the good in every situation and bring out the best in others. Our students will benefit greatly by having him in their lives.”

James comes to MISD from Garland ISD where he served for the past two years as an ELAR instructional design facilitator. Prior to that, he spent five years at Hudson Middle School in Garland ISD as a seventh grade English teacher and eighth grade AVID teacher.

In 2013, James was named Rookie of the Year at Hudson and in 2014 was chosen as Teacher of the Year at the same school and was also named Teacher of the Year by the Sachse Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, he was a Garland Power and Light Teacher of the Month, a Dallas Morning News Teacher of the Month and was recognized as a Young Alumnus by Southwestern Assemblies of God University.

“I’m excited to join the McKinney ISD family as the assistant principal at Malvern and join this amazing team of leaders,” said James. “The investments leaders make in education today will create great rewards in the lives of the next generation. That is why it is my mission to foster opportunities that create leaders, learners and lovers of life to ensure empowerment and hope for all through their educational experience.”

James earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and his master’s degree from the University of North Texas.

Michelle McHugh—Assistant Principal, Walker Elementary  Michelle McHugh is the new assistant principal of Walker Elementary. Most recently an instructional coach at Wilmeth Elementary, McHugh brings nine years of experience in education to her new role.

McHugh began her career in 2010 as an elementary teacher in Kentucky but made her way to Texas in 2012 to teach at Rockbrook Elementary in Lewisville ISD. Five years later, she joined MISD to serve as an instructional coach supporting Bennett Elementary, Eddins Elementary, Wolford Elementary and Wilmeth Elementary. For 2018–2019, her role focused solely on Wilmeth.

“Michelle’s teaching experience and extensive work leading the Wilmeth staff as an instructional coach will be a great asset to our Walker team,” said Walker Principal Melanie Raleeh.

McHugh has served as an MISD instructional coach mentor and as a member of the district elementary social studies design team. At Wilmeth, she led the campus lesson design team and played a key role in helping Wilmeth attain Marzano High Reliability Schools Level 2 certification, which focuses on ensuring effective instruction in every classroom.

“I am honored to join the Walker family and serve the students, staff and parents in this new role,” McHugh said. “I am tremendously grateful to be working alongside Melanie Raleeh and the entire Walker staff to continue the work they are doing to impact students and bring out the best in each Walker Star. I feel fortunate to become part of their community and couldn’t be more excited to get started!”

McHugh earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Kentucky and her master’s degree in reading education from Texas Woman’s University.

Secondary Assistant Principals

“I am excited to welcome Ferlanda Willis, Russell Lewis and Laura Stinson to our campus leadership teams at Dowell and Scott Johnson, and Jesse Abel will be a great asset as he moves from Dowell to McKinney High School,” said Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Student Support Dr. Melinda DeFelice. “Each of these educators brings talent and experience that will serve their campuses well.”

Ferlanda Willis—Assistant Principal, Dowell Middle School  Dowell Principal Holly Rogers welcomes Ferlanda Willis to her administrative team this year. Willis is a talented educator who brings a wealth of experience accumulated from a career spanning nearly 20 years.

Willis spent the first five years of her career as an elementary teacher in Dallas ISD, serving at the kindergarten, first, third and fifth grade levels during her time there.

She arrived in MISD in 2005 to join the staff of Malvern Elementary. During her 10 years at that campus, Willis served as a second grade teacher, 504 coordinator and instructional coach/response to intervention coordinator. In 2015, she moved to Press Elementary to serve in a similar position.

Now, she moves into a new role as an assistant principal at the middle school level.

“I am truly honored to be joining the Dowell Middle School family as one of the new assistant principals,” said Willis. “I am joining a rich culture of dedication and collaboration between staff, students, parents and the community. I am excited for the 2019-2020 school year and to be part of the effort to do whatever it takes to advance the achievement of all students on our campus.”

Willis earned her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Texas Woman’s University and her master’s degree in education from Concordia University.

Both Dowell assistant principal jobs became available this summer when Dowell Assistant Principal Aretha Jackson accepted a principal position with another district, and long time Dowell Assistant Principal Jesse Abel transferred to McKinney High School to serve as an assistant principal there.

Russell Lewis—Assistant Principal, Dowell Middle School  Rounding out Holly Rogers’ new administrative team at Dowell is Russell Lewis. He’s a former professional baseball player with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals who went on to serve in the private sector before coming to education in 2008 when he joined the staff of McKinney North High School as an assistant baseball coach.

Since then, he has served as a football coach and history teacher at Cockrill Middle School and most recently as history department chair and 504/RTI coordinator at Evans Middle School. Now, he’ll move into a new position as assistant principal at Dowell.

“I am honored and excited to join the Dowell team,” said Lewis. “As one of the highest achieving schools in the district, I look forward to working with committed, hardworking teachers and administration.”

Lewis earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Northwood University and his master’s degree in administration from Stephen F. Austin University.

“I am very excited to welcome Ferlanda and Russell to the Dowell family,” said Rogers. “I have had the privilege to work with both of them in the district in different capacities, and I know that they will both be a great addition to our school. The strengths that they bring will help us to continue to be the great school that we are known to be.”

Laura Stinson—Assistant Principal, Scott Johnson Middle School  Laura Stinson will be familiar to the staff and students of Scott Johnson Middle School, but they’ll find her in a new role this year as she moves from the special education department to her new job as assistant principal, working alongside Dr. Mitch Curry, SJMS principal.

The assistant principal position became available when SJMS Assistant Principal David Warren accepted a principal position with another district.

“Laura Stinson has been at SJMS for three years as the special education lead,” said Curry. “We are so excited that she decided to fill the leadership role as assistant principal. She has a passion for all kids and will bring a wealth of experience from her success as a teacher and departmental manager. She also possesses a keen set of skills for understanding and finding solutions to help others. She will be a great resource for our kids, staff and parents.”

Stinson began her career 12 years ago in Mesquite ISD as an elementary self-contained special education teacher, working with students who had severe intellectual and behavioral challenges. Over the following five years, she would serve in Katy ISD and Wylie ISD as a special education teacher before arriving at SJMS in 2016, where she has helped oversee the school’s special education department.

“After serving as the special education lead teacher at SJMS for the last three years, I am excited to be moving into a new leadership role,” said Stinson. “And, I am looking forward to a great year with our students, parents and staff!”

Stinson holds a bachelor’s degree in applied arts and science from Midwestern State University and a master’s degree from Stephen F. Austin University.

Jesse Abel – Assistant Principal, McKinney High School  Jesse Abel is no stranger to McKinney ISD or to the role of assistant principal. After four years as assistant principal at Dowell Middle School, Abel heads to McKinney High School this year to serve as an assistant principal, bringing nearly 30 years of educational experience to his new campus.

He started his career as an assistant high school football and wrestling coach at Durant High School in Durant, OK and spent the following 12 years as a science teacher and coach in Oklahoma, where the athletes under his guidance collected multiple state-level honors and achievements. In 2002, he headed south to Texas, serving in Allen, Plano and Fort Worth ISDs as a coach and science teacher for he next six years. In 2008, he arrived at McKinney Boyd High School, serving again as a coach and science teacher before moving into an administrative role in 2015 as assistant principal at Dowell.

“I am extremely humbled and honored to serve on this leadership staff at such an award-winning prestigious campus,” said Abel. “I look forward to bringing an individual commitment to such a wonderful group effort here at McKinney High School.”

Abel earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry education from Southeastern State University and his master’s degree in education leadership from Lamar University.

Central Administration

Zabdi Gonzalez—Senior Director of Bilingual/ESL, Central Office  Zabdi Gonzalez is now the senior director of Bilingual/ESL for MISD. She came to the district in 2017 to lead the Bilingual/ESL department and since then, has implemented numerous strategies to support MISD English language learners, including but not limited to the creation of a Bilingual Elementary District Assessment Review Committee, focus walks at elementary campuses, restructuring of ESL classes at the secondary level and piloting the Test of English Language Learners (TELL), which supports students in preparation for the state assessment of language, known as TELPAS.

All told, Gonzalez has 17 years of experience in education. Prior to her work in MISD, she served as an elementary bilingual teacher, an assistant principal, summer school principal and campus principal for Garland ISD. In addition, from 2007-2010, Gonzalez was an adjunct professor in the teacher preparation department at Richland College.

At the state level her contributions include serving as a presenter for the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, as a Bilingual Target Language Proficiency Test rater and as a member of the TEA Test Development Educator Committee.

“As I go into my third year with MISD, there is no doubt in my mind I am in the right place at the right time,” said Gonzalez. “As part of the Bilingual/ESL department, I am able to support administrators and teachers in how to better serve one of the student groups who need us the most—English learners. I have been able to build great partnerships with many campuses and students. MISD has committed to higher levels of instruction for all, and I take that to heart. As Dr. McDaniel would say, I’m all in!”

Gonzalez holds a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a specialization in bilingual education from Texas Woman’s University and a master’s degree in education from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Christy Giddens, BSN, RN—Coordinator of Health Services, Central Office  Long time MISD school nurse Christy Giddens is now the MISD Coordinator of Health Services, working alongside Director of Health Services Julie Blankenship. Giddens brings some 25 years of experience that extend beyond the school setting.

Before coming to MISD in 2009, Giddens served as a cardiology staff nurse at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas and went on to serve as an educator at Arrow International. In addition, she served as a staff nurse and team leader of education services at Baylor Jack and Jane Hamilton Heart and Vascular Hospital and as a staff nurse at Texas Heart Hospital–Baylor Plano.

During her time in MISD, Giddens served first as a float nurse and then as the campus nurse for McClure Elementary from 2010–2017. She then became the district’s nurse educator and has been responsible for—among many duties—developing, coordinating and implementing professional development for all health services staff and the development of a new school nurse orientation program.

In 2015, Giddens was honored as the Region 10 School Nurse of the Year.

“I am honored to have been given this opportunity to make an impact in the lives of McKinney ISD students and staff,” said Giddens. “I am so grateful to work with such kindhearted, compassionate and respected school nurses. I have been so blessed throughout my nursing career, and my career with MISD, to be able to share my days by impacting lives of my patients and their families.  This change connects my love for patient care and fuses it with an opportunity that matches my passion…educating nurses! I am so excited about the upcoming school year, and I know it will be the best one yet!”

Giddens earned her BSN at Northeast Louisiana University and holds the following certifications: ANCC CNE Provider, Hearing and Vision Instructor, Red Cross CPR Instructor, Critical Care Registered Nurse alumnus.

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.