West Jefferson Hills School District appoints 2 new principals
Two newly appointed principals in the West Jefferson Hills School District have one thing in common, leaders say: They love kids.
School board members on Aug. 27 officially hired longtime Pleasant Hills Middle School educator Adam Zunic as the principal of Gill Hall Elementary, at a salary of $100,000.
Zunic, 36, who has been vice principal of Pleasant Hills Middle School for the past five years, announced his new position at Gill Hall on Aug. 22. It became effective Aug. 26, the first day of school.
Board members also approved the hiring of Melissa McCauley, 35, an eight-year Pleasant Hills Middle School family and consumer science teacher, as the middle school’s vice principal. She will earn $80,000, with a start date to be determined.
“I couldn’t be happier for these two individuals,” Superintendent Michael Ghilani said. “It really completes our administrative team, K-12.”
Board members also approved the resignation of Tina Mayer as Gill Hall principal, effective Aug. 31. Mayer’s resignation letter indicated she had entered into a confidential settlement with the district, and district leaders haven’t commented on the matter.
Mayer has not responded to requests for comment.
At the board meeting, there was nothing but praise for the two new principals.
Pleasant Hills Middle School Principal Dan Como said he’s enjoyed working alongside Zunic for the past several years.
“He’s going to be great for those kids,” said Como, who described Zunic as “a big teddy bear.”
Ghilani said Zunic “dove right in” on the first day with high fives for every kid as they entered the school.
“I’m beyond humbled,” Zunic said following the meeting. “There’s a fine tradition of excellence that’s established here by the district. I just want to continue to move that forward.”
Zunic, who has three master’s degrees and is working on a doctorate in education, reiterated his excitement for the opportunity to help “shape and mold” the district’s youngest learners “into great people (and) young productive citizens.”
His first goal at Gill Hall is to get through building renovations while continuing to meet the needs of every student.
He said he wants to bring in new ideas, using technology, to educate students. The district is in the process of interviewing for a kindergarten-through-second-grade technology teacher who will work at Gill Hall and McClellan, Zunic said.
A father of four children who are 7 and younger, Zunic said he also wants to focus on social and emotional learning.
“Our kids are walking into those doors from every walk of life, different backgrounds, different experiences, different frames of reference,” he said. “But while they’re in our building, we get to be their stability, their rock, their heroes. What better way to spend your day? What better calling in life than to be able to do that?”
At Pleasant Hills Middle School, McCauley has stood out as a “teacher leader,” Como said.
“Melissa’s someone we’ve had our eye on for the great things she’s been doing. I think she brings a ray of sunshine to the district. She’s always positive. She’s innovative. She’s creative,” Ghilani said.
McCauley, who has a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in curriculum, graduated in June from Drexel University with a doctorate in leadership and management.
As a vice principal, her goal is to make a bigger impact and help people on a larger scale.
“I have a desire to help — help kids, help people,” she said. “Now I know another level that I can support. I’m here to support my teachers. I’m here to make the school the best place it can possibly be.”
McCauley, who lives in the district and sends her children to West Jefferson Hills schools, said she believes in the district and where it’s headed.
“We’re going great places, and I can’t wait,” she said.
As a teacher, she took on leadership roles, from organizing the GOLD — Girls Only Leadership Development night — to advising student council and the interact club.
“We’re a fantastic middle school, and I want to be a part of where we’re going and what we’re doing,” she said. “I can’t wait to take us to the next level.”