New principals excited for start of the school year

Hopewell Valley Regional School district signage in Pennington.

Bear Tavern Elementary School students start the 2023-24 school year with a new principal.

Jay Billy, who comes from Ben Franklin Elementary School in Lawrence Township Public Schools, is leading the school now after succeeding former principal Chris Turnbull.

Turnbull transferred within the school district to lead Timberlane Middle School (TMS) as its new principal.

Billy had resigned from his position as principal from Ben Franklin to become Bear Tavern’s principal.

In his welcome letter to the Bear Tavern school community, he wrote, “Although I’m new here, I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Bear Tavern Family. Everyone has made me feel so welcome and included. I just can’t wait to get fully immersed in the culture of the school.”

Billy will be paid $173,431 in his position as Bear Tavern principal.

“In my first year here at Bear Tavern, my goal is to continue all of the programs and initiatives that have been a major focus for Bear Tavern and get to know all of the students, families, and staff,” he added.

Billy wants to continue to focus on academics and social-emotional learning, “while making sure that all students feel welcome and included in our school community,” he wrote.

“I believe in the saying, ‘Every child is a genius,’ and it is our job to continue to inspire and support children in following their passions while giving them the academic foundation needed to succeed and make this world a better place for all.”

The theme for the 2023-24 school year is going to be “HOPE,” which stands for “honesty, optimism, perseverance, and empathy.”

“[These are] skills we ‘HOPE’ to instill and inspire in all of our students,” he added. “We will continue to use the Character Strong curriculum in our classrooms, with a focus on the themes of Be Kind [respect, empathy, cooperation], Be Strong [responsibility, perseverance, courage], and Be Well [gratitude, honesty, creativity].”

Billy praised Turnbull for his support, help, and welcome during his transition to the elementary school as well as custodial staff “working tirelessly to clean and prepare our classrooms and building for a great year.”

“I’d also like to thank Mrs. [Kelsey] Barling for making my job so easy and for working throughout the summer to ensure that our supplies were ordered, and all of our systems were operational and ready to go.”

Like Billy, Turnbull is gearing to go at his new school. In an Aug. 22 message to his TMS school community, he expressed his excitement for the start of the new school year.

“I have fully moved into my office, met a number of staff members [and even had a staff Trenton Thunder Outing], and learned so much about TMS. We are getting ready for a great school year,” he said.

“I continue to work closely with, and be very grateful for, Mrs. [Melissa] Lauri and Mr. [Michael] Emmich; and our custodial and secretarial staffs are amazing. While summer is a beautiful thing, I am so excited for September and the start of school.”

The 2023-24 school year for the Hopewell Regional School District begins on Sept. 7.