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Archive for Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Principal turnover improving, official says

July 24, 2001

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"A half-dozen was out of the norm," Supt. Randy Weseman said. "Three should be on the higher end for our district."

Weseman said the district could expect a period of modest turnover among its principal corps.

After all, more than two-thirds of Lawrence's elementary school principalships have changed hands in the past three years. There's been greater stability in secondary schools, where top administrators of those schools have been on the job a minimum of four years.

The average tenure for a Lawrence principal is five years.

The most seasoned is Larry Bakerink, principal for 19 years at Broken Arrow School, 2704 La. Among the seven secondary schools, West Junior High School Principal Mick Lowe leads the pack with 16 years.

Weseman said the lineup of principals at the district's 26 buildings could change if academic performance in schools didn't improve.

"Static or doing worse is not an option," he said. "Better is the only option."

The three newcomers:

  • Jane Ziegler, Schwegler School, 2201 Ousdahl Road. Ziegler, former assistant principal at Raytown Middle School in Kansas City, Mo., replaces Gary Stauffer, who left the district after 23 years at Schwegler.
  • Tammy Becker, Hillcrest School, 1045 Hilltop Drive. Becker, former principal of Soderstrom School in Lindsborg, took over after Bob Arevalo ended his 10-year run at the school to become the district's director of personnel.
  • David Williams, Prairie Park School, 2711 Kensington Road. Williams, former principal of Shumway Elementary in the Phoenix suburb of Chandler, Ariz., replaced Vicki Weseman. She had been at Prairie Park since it opened in 1994.

Williams, who had twice the enrollment at Shumway as he will have at Prairie Park, said making the transition to a new city, district and school would take time.

"It's a getting-to-know-you and getting-to-know-me process," he said.

He said discussions with Prairie Park's teachers had given him ideas about what they'd like to change at the school. He may set up focus groups to gather additional insights.

"I'd like to do that with parents when school starts," he said.

Williams said that during the first week of school he would read to students in every classroom.

"It gives me a chance to get to know them."

Becker, who comes to Lawrence's 10,000-student district from a Lindsborg district with about 1,000 students, said a key to her transition would be adjusting to the bigger size of the operation.

She has met with Hillcrest's teachers and some parents since appointed principal in April. Parents established a transition committee to help her ease into the job, she said.

"I'm so excited," Becker said. "This school has a wonderful reputation for academic achievement."

One other school will start classes in August with a different principal than one year ago. Gary Johnson, former coordinator of physical education, health and consumer science in the district, was named interim principal at East Heights School in November 2000. He replaced Laura Blevins, who resigned after being placed on a paid suspension.

In 2000, six Lawrence elementary schools started the academic year led by new principals. They were Cordley, Quail Run, Woodlawn, Grant, Sunset Hill and Sunflower.

-- Staff writer Tim Carpenter can be reached at 832-7155.

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