Next fall, a familiar face will be roaming the halls of the Seymour Elementary School as its new principal.
In fact, two decades ago, she was roaming the same halls as a student.
Ellisha Hastings was hired last Tuesday, Nov. 9, by the Seymour R-II Board of Education as the district’s new elementary principal for the upcoming 2022-23 school year, effective July 1, 2022.
She replaces Leslie Penner-Davis, who will retire next May at the end of the current 2021-22 school year after four years as Seymour’s elementary principal and 23 total years as an educator for the district.
Hastings was hired in a 6-1 vote by the school board, with board member Josh Wright casting the dissenting vote.
“It’s always hard to lose an administrator as solid and as stellar as Leslie has been for us at the elementary, but I feel we’ve gained another administrator with high character in Ellisha,” Superintendent Steve Richards said Friday. “Ellisha is a person who I believe truly cares about young people in our community, and I feel she will be very dedicated to this new position and will do a good job.”
Richards said there were 15 applicants for the position, which was advertised statewide earlier this fall.
Five finalists were selected for the school board and were interviewed prior to last week’s hiring.
“I don’t think this was an easy decision for the board to make, and that’s a credit and compliment to the candidates,” Richards said. “In the end, I feel that Ellisha being a native of Seymour and being already actively involved in our community gave her familiarity with the board, as they knew her track record as an educator.”
Her husband, Chris, is in his seventh year as the head boys’ basketball coach for the district, where he leads the middle- and high-school teams.
A 2009 graduate of Seymour High School where she was a basketball standout on Tiger teams that won district titles, Hastings, whose maiden name is Coday, then attended North Arkansas College in Harrison, Ark., where she played basketball and earned her associate’s degree.
She then attended Missouri State University in Springfield, graduating in May 2015 with a bachelor of science degree in physical education. Hastings was hired as a teacher at Seymour’s elementary prior to the 2015-16 school year and has remained with the district ever since, filling several different teaching roles, most recently as a Title I math teacher for grades kindergarten through five.
In August 2019, Hastings received her master’s degree in education leadership from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Ark.
Since 2015, she’s served the district as a middle- and high-school girls’ basketball coach and high-school softball coach.
“I do feel that Ellisha brings a lot of versatility and a lot of experience to the position,” Richards said. “She’s taught or coached children at all levels of education, from kindergarten students to high-school seniors.”
Her one-year contract is for $65,000 annually, Richards said. said.