Jim Justice liberates Upper School from 70’s love songs

Jim Justice, Head of Upper School with Tree Cat painting

Jim Justice, Head of Upper School with Tree Cat painting

         As the music of R.E.M wafts throughout McCain Chapel, interim principal Jim Justice begins to slowly clap in maniacal glee as he climbs the stairs onto the stage. While a bystander outside Pressly might expect a party, instead it is the scene of a “Music, Joy, Laughter” assembly on a typical Thursday in the high school.

         Jim Justice is serving this year as the interim head of the Upper School, taking over for former head of Upper School Ross Peters, who departed for a school in Memphis. A search committee has been established and hopes to hire a new head of the Upper School by December. The “Music, Joy, Laughter” assembly theme is new to the Upper School. It is perhaps the most noticeable change in the beginning of the year-long Justice regime.

          “Music makes people happy,” said Justice. “Hard work and high school expectations need to be balanced with fun and excitement.”

          Mr. Justice has another main area of focus: a revamped math department. Justice will also review the current systems in place, in order for a new head of the upper school next year to have strongest possible foundation. Geometry and Calculus teacher Kevin Mylod agrees with Justice.

         “When you walk into McCain [during an assembly], everybody gets in a better mood,” said Mylod. “Also, music raises the potential for the student body to hear whatever message is being promoted.”

         As of September, the playlist is currently a random collection of Justice’s favorite music. However, the advancements in the future call for senior siblings and also student government co-chairs Billy McGahan and Katie McGahan to lead the musical initiative.  

         “I think we need student music, not 80s music from a 46 year old,” said Justice.

         President Keith Evans supports Justice’s structural changes, just not his musical endeavors.

         “Love songs from the 70s, maybe Air Supply or some Karen Carpenter [would be nice to add to the playlist],” said Evans.

          Along with the improved assemblies, Justice intends to make some changes to the math department. The ultimate goal is reduce the numbers of students being tutored in math. A survey conducted in May 2015 discovered that a significant percentage of students are tutored in math throughout their education at Westminster.  

          “Jim would like to see a math department that can better support the students outside the class,” said Mylod. “Ultimately every teacher would like to see students using the resources we provide at our school more. Teachers can better communicate resources to families.”

          Currently in his 21st year at Westminster, Justice began as an English teacher in the Upper School and then served as the Assistant Head of Upper School. In this position he created the legendary role of Jan-Terminator and was a guiding force in the adoption of the seven-day rotation schedule.

          “Jim has been very successful in everything he has even attempted here.” Evans said. “Jim knows the Westminster community really well.”

          As a part of his position, Justice works with student leaders such as Billy McGahan and Katie McGahan.

        “Meetings are pretty informal, and I appreciate that he’s not locked up in his office in Askew,” said student government leader Billy McGahan. “He is nice, funny and enthusiastic.”

           The president, countless other faculty members, and practically everyone on campus concurs that Mr. Justice is a well-rounded, personable interim principal.

          “Everyone thinks he is a good guy and likeable,” said Evans.  

          When Justice is not rebuffing Evans’ suggestion of 70’s hits, he’s attempting to smooth the succession in Westminster’s near future. The goal of Justice’s regime is to better pave the way for the succeeding Upper School principal.

          “He is looking at processes and systems and how well they work, so that the next Upper School head isn’t working on things like mechanics and problems, instead they are working on bigger visions,” said Evans.

          Justice’s dedication to the job does not come without consequences. Even Justice is exhausted on Friday, something students would never guess.

          “At the end of the week, I’m really happy and satisfied” said Justice. “I feel tired when Friday comes.” On the weekends Justice finds himself sleeping in and taking a nap to compensate for a hard week.

          McGahan thinks that Justice will be an excellent Interim Head of the Upper School. Westminster is fortunate to have Justice in this year of progression for the Upper School.