JDS appoints Cassandra Batson as incoming Middle School Principal


Freed Photography

Director of Upper School STEM and middle school math and science department chair Cassandra Batson will begin as middle school principal on July 1.

Gila Safra, Reporter

After a months-long search, the new middle school principal has been selected: Cassandra Batson, the current Director of Upper School STEM and middle school math and science department chair. The decision was announced via a school-wide email on Feb. 13. 

The CESJDS community learned over the summer that the middle school would be in search of a new principal for the coming year after the announcement that current Middle School Principal Eliana Lipsky is stepping down in order to dedicate more time to her family. After searching for candidates, conducting many interviews and a final two-day visit to the school for the two finalists, the Search Advisory Committee and Head of School Rabbi Mitchel Malkus selected Batson.

Batson began working at JDS seven years ago as a middle school science teacher, and then worked her way up to an administrator. After going back and forth about whether she should apply, she decided that she is ready to take on a new responsibility and work more closely with the whole school.

“I feel like it’s an opportunity to really make a difference on a scale that I can’t do right now,” Batson said. “I’m really committed to not only the students, but my colleagues and I want to be able to be there and make decisions to lead us and continue leading us in the right direction.”

Malkus is excited for Batson to take on the new position. He said that she is very experienced, having a background in teaching, administrating, evaluating teachers and students, talking to parents and creating curriculums. 

Additionally, Malkus said that it is very beneficial that she has been active in the school for many years. Batson already understands the structure and program of the middle school, which he anticipates will make for a smoother transition. She has also been very involved in STEM development and programming. 

“We were super excited to offer her that position and excited that she accepted and that she’s excited to take on a new role,” Malkus said. “I think she’ll bring [her] innovative spirit to the entire program of the middle school.”

Batson said that there are both benefits and drawbacks to the fact that she is already part of the school community. 

“I think the benefit of having been here is I have had the opportunity to build a lot of trusting and meaningful relationships,” Batson said. “But a challenge will be that things are going to have to shift because I will be having to think about things from a different perspective, and I think that’s not just going to be hard for me, it’s going to be hard for some students, some faculty and some parents.”

Seventh-grader Emma Feig said that Batson’s familiarity with the school is valuable in that she already knows what students study and how they learn best. Additionally, she said that Batson knows how to interact with the students; she is a good listener and knows how to keep students on task which is very important.

“She always knows everybody’s names,” Feig said. “[She] will always stop and say hi to you in the hall with a smile which is nice.”

As the middle school is about to experience change, Batson is aware that transition is hard. She said that she needs to be thoughtful and make sure not to “shake the boat” too much. She wants to continue to lead the middle school on the path they are on and needs the opportunity to see what is working and what isn’t. Feig said that she is less nervous and more curious to see how it all plays out. 

Batson said that her goal is to make sure that students don’t just come out with good grades, but to ensure that they are good human beings. She wants to build a community and culture where students can embrace values and the skills that they are learning.

“I care about everyone involved and I hope that I can do what I can to set everyone up to thrive,” Batson said. “Even though sometimes it means making people upset or making decisions that aren’t popular, it’s going to stem from a place of love and sincerity.”

Batson is the first non-Jewish principal for JDS and she understands that it might be a concern or challenging for the community. She said that though she is not Jewish, she believes in the school’s Jewish values.

Malkus said that that is something that came up in interviews, but he believes that there are enough Jewish educators around her to help the Jewish structure in the school continue to grow. He also said that Batson is dedicated to the school’s mission and values.

Now, looking back on the last several years she has spent at JDS, Batson is excited for the next chapter. She said she is dedicated to the school community and is devoted to helping it grow. 

“When I first started here seven years ago, I wasn’t sure I was going to last seven days … So now, seven years later and having this opportunity, I feel very lucky to be part of this community,” Batson said. “I feel very blessed to have met all these wonderful people, and I’m excited that everyone’s trusting me to take on this challenge.”