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Archive for Friday, April 27, 2001

Hillcrest, East Heights get new principals

April 27, 2001

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The Lawrence school district Thursday hired new principals for the embattled East Heights School and highly regarded Hillcrest School.

Gary Johnson, former coordinator of physical education, health and consumer science in the Lawrence district, will be in charge at East Heights. Johnson had been interim principal since November and taught at East Heights in the 1980s.

"I'm excited about being over there," he said. "As I got into it, I really enjoyed it and enjoyed the kids."

Supt. Randy Weseman said Johnson was the right choice to lead the elementary school.

"An effective school begins with effective leadership committed leadership," Weseman said. "Gary is the right guy at the right time."

In November, Weseman suspended Laura Blevins from her job as East Heights principal in the wake of a state investigation into allegations that a special-education student was abused at the school. Blevins was hired as East Heights' principal in 1997.

The school board had already voted not to renew her contract for 2001-2002 due to a perception that she was a weak manager and concern about the school's low scores on student assessment tests. In March, Blevins formally resigned.

East Heights, 1430 Haskell Ave., was built in 1952 and has an enrollment of 173 students.

Tammy Becker, principal of Soderstrom School in Lindsborg, will take over at Hillcrest. In recent years, Hillcrest has had among the district's highest scores on standardized assessments.

"She comes highly recommended," Weseman said. "She's excited about coming to Lawrence."

Becker will replace Bob Arevalo, who has served 10 years as Hillcrest's principal. Arevalo accepted a job as the district's director of personnel.

Hillcrest, 1045 Hilltop Drive, opened in 1954 and has 377 students.

Appointments of Johnson and Becker are effective July 1.

Johnson has been an administrator in the Lawrence district for seven years. He has taught gym, science, math and health at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.

Becker is principal of a school with 285 students in kindergarten through fourth grade. She was assistant principal at Soderstrom for seven years.

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