Archive for Friday, April 10, 2009

New principal named at Lawrence High School

Matt Brungardt to replace Steve Nilhas as school’s principal

Matt Brungardt, who has served for six years as an associate principal at Lawrence High School, will take over as principal for Steve Nilhas, who is leaving the district at the end of June.

Matt Brungardt, who has served for six years as an associate principal at Lawrence High School, will take over as principal for Steve Nilhas, who is leaving the district at the end of June.

April 10, 2009, 7:42 a.m. Updated April 10, 2009, 3:47 p.m.


New principal named at Lawrence High School

Matt Brungardt will take over as LHS principal at the end of June. Enlarge video

A new leader will be pounding his chest at Lawrence High School next school year.

Matt Brungardt was announced this week as the new principal of the school, 1901 La., known as “the home of the chesty lion.” He was selected from 20 applicants to lead 1,255 students and about 150 teachers beginning in July.

“I’m excited for this opportunity,” Brungardt said. “It’s a great chance to continue focusing on the academic excellence of Lawrence High and the traditions of this school.”

Brungardt, who has served for six years as an associate principal at LHS, will take over for Steve Nilhas, who is leaving the district at the end of June.

Nilhas, a six-year principal at LHS, is leaving to pursue other professional interests, which he declined to discuss on Friday.

Lawrence school Superintendent Randy Weseman, who retires at the end of the school year, made the ultimate selection of Brungardt for the position, with the assistance of other school administrators. His selection must be approved by the school board.

Four finalists for the position were screened by three committees that included teachers, staff, parents and students. The candidates also had to complete writing assignments, a public presentation, and interviews with Weseman and incoming Superintendent Rick Doll.

“Matt emerged from this very rigorous process as being the right person to lead Lawrence High right now,” said Bruce Passman, deputy school superintendent, who participated in the selection.

Student body president Ben Wilson, who sat on the student advisory committee that interviewed the candidates, said Brungardt takes care of business and is well liked by a majority of students.

“I’m very excited that they chose him,” said Wilson, a senior at the school. “He knows Lawrence High; he knows our traditions. … He’ll be able to keep this ship blowing.”

‘A good vision’

Ken Click, one of about a dozen parents who interviewed the candidates, said the committee had positive thoughts about all the finalists. But, he’s satisfied with Brungardt’s selection.

“I believe that Dr. Brungardt will do a fine job at LHS,” said Click, a parent of a graduating senior and an incoming sophomore at the school. “He seems to have a good vision of where he wanted to take LHS.”

Brungardt said one of the biggest challenges he’ll focus on when he takes over is increasing the school’s reading test scores. The school earned the Kansas Standard of Excellence in 2008 for its performance on the state’s math assessment, an award Brungardt said he’s determined to also accomplish for reading assessments.

“Come July, when I take over for Steve, I think we’ll be ready to roll our sleeves up and get after what we know we need to get after,” Brungardt said.

The new leader said he also looks forward to completion of the school’s new on-site athletics fields and said there will be many opportunities to work with students on hosting new events at the school, as a result.

Brungardt previously was principal and dean of academics at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School, a school of 825 students in Wichita.

His prior educational experience includes teaching social sciences at Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City, Mo.; serving as assistant principal and social science instructor at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park; and serving as assistant principal at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science at Kansas University, Brungardt earned a master’s in educational administration at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and his doctorate in education at St. Louis University.

Brungardt and his wife, Courtney, have two sons: Cole, 10, and Ross, 8. Both attend Langston Hughes School. Brungardt’s father, Pete, is a state senator from Salina.


Andrew Boyd 9 years ago

amazing the district hires with in for this job. but just a few years ago when the principal's position at south was open the guy that was their and deserved the job dint get it. any ways congrats to matt on getting the job

dagger 9 years ago

I agree lynchburg. I was kind of hopeing he would put in for this job. I'm not familiar with Matt but I hope he can do a good job.

smag91 9 years ago

I am a student at Lawrence High and this guy is such a jerk, he is the worst possible pick for principle. I hope they replace him soon but thank god im a senior so i wont be around next year. Like what 2fat4u said, I HATE THIS GUY.

Alia Ahmed 9 years ago

2fat4u and smag91 must be related, they both incorrectly spelled "principal".

Thinking_Out_Loud 9 years ago

Hardly conclusive evidence, Logan72, since the confusion between principal and principle is quite common among the American population.

RareBird 9 years ago

I'm the parent of a former student at LHS, and all the experiences I've had with Dr. Brungardt have been negative. One example: when we suffered a family tragedy, and asked for reasonable accommodations, despite support from all the teachers, and my student's history of outstanding grades and achievement, his response amounted to "tough beans, suck it up." I'm all for toughness in raising children, but we shouldn't confuse that with being heartless. A sad day for LHS.

gsxr600 9 years ago

He won't live up to half of what Nilhas did.

Alia Ahmed 9 years ago

Thinking_Out_Loud (Anonymous) says…

Hardly conclusive evidence, Logan72, since the confusion between principal and principle is quite common among the American population

TOL-It is commonly confused, but for goodness sakes, all it takes is to refer back to the story that you are commenting on for the correct spelling.

KULHSLIONSfan 9 years ago

Great choice. I have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Brungardt and have been very impressed. My kids like Mr. Brungardt and have no problem with the choice. However, my 3 boys have all been good respectful students, involved in the school, participate in athletics, student council and a variety of other activities associated with LHS. They have enjoyed their experiences at LHS.

It is unfortunate that bloggers (peace_be) can make unfounded, gutless, slanderous, anonymous comments about others and they are taken as fact.

Mr. Nilhas was a great principal. Great leaders and principals owe a certain level of their success to those who work closely with them. Mr. Nilhas had a great leadership team at LHS who will continue on the same path. Mr. Brungardt tended to be the enforcer as do most assistants principals. I have no problem with his leadership.

I am very pleased with the choice.

WilburM 9 years ago

Peace be with you -- (the irony of your tag is killing me). You anonymously trash this guy -- really, it's slander -- and then you talk about "Democracy?" We elect School Board members, who appoint a superintendent, and they all are responsible for such selections. We just had an election for school board -- would it have been different if this announcement was made early? Doubtful. Sounds like your version of "Democracy" is a lynch mob.

Aimee Polson 9 years ago

aren't you supposed to be persecuted in HS by the administration? If not, how do we come up with art and movies about the subject? Hello, Breakfast club! Why should we like them? It's disturbing the natural order to like the principal!

kansasfire911 9 years ago

Logan72 (Alia Ahmed) says…

2fat4u and smag91 must be related, they both incorrectly spelled “principal”.

Products of the Lawrence School System.

Andrew Boyd 9 years ago

Kansasfire911 i agree with you 100% when i started in the lawrence system it was the best their was from kindergarten to graduation this district went in the craper. i only went to school in lawrence i was here towards the end of the good years. ill point to the first comment i made. this district has had a horrible time picking people. Their are people in this district that have waited 15 or more years for jobs that should be in their hands. and this district screws them over.

Jeff Kilgore 9 years ago

kansasfire, let's not jump to conclusions whether 2fat is a Lawrence product or even a 6th grade graduate. See the comments about KU basketball and his offensive interjections here--you'll see that 2F is a reactionary without a cause. Many whiners are intelligent at least.

Those who are trashing the new candidate may or may not have "heard" things, but this is entirely the wrong way to go about complaining. I have never met the candidate, but so many of these posts are irrational at best, slanderous at worst. A principal shouldn't be "liked" or "disliked" by students but respected. I hope that those who post disparaging comments don't have students in the Lawrence system, because if it is true that the acorn doesn't fall far from tree, LHS has some problems in its classrooms.

woodenfleaeater 9 years ago


From your spelling, it looks like that last few years of the good were thrown out the window, and the first few years of the bad is what you soaked in.

KULHSLIONSfan 9 years ago

2fats posts certainly are interesting. Honors and distinctions? It certainly is not evident from the posts. It would probably be good to keep 2fats kids at home away from the great kids, teachers and principals we have in our school system. Difficult and problem children tend to be a result of their parenting.

blakec 9 years ago

you know what i miss -- is mr browning and his chats with chesty -- we need a guy you talks to a statue

kthxbi 9 years ago

blakec- I know! LOVED Mr. Browing. He rocked.

deskboy04 9 years ago

Matt is an excellent choice to be the new principal.

waswade 9 years ago

Liberty_one you mean all employees that are not in with him>?

tonymontana 9 years ago

As a 2007 graduate of LHS who dealt with Brungardt on many occasions as my assitant principal. He is a terrible choice and a miserable person. Thank boogie man i am not there anymore.

Dayle Hodges 9 years ago

I'm for cloning Max Rife...(even though that ages me)!!

Boston_Corbett 9 years ago

The great thing about this country is that people like 2fat4u are able to start a family without having passed a test for emotional maturity. Or spelling.

tonymontana 9 years ago

did i mention this guy is really an awful human being?

Sheila Hooper White 9 years ago

I will agree Max Rife or Mr. Browning. Loved them both.

I think no matter who it would of been there is always going to be the nay sayers.(sp?) You can't make everyone happy and in today's world you can very easily piss someone off.

I'm so tired of the negative opinions/comments about Lawrence and the school district. I have had a great experience with both. My first child graduated from LHS last year and she grew up going to the schools in the district. She was the 4th generation to graduate from LHS (my grandmother graduated from Liberty that probably doesn't count for some people). My husband works for the district and I also have another child in one of the elementary schools. We love it!!! As for Lawrence I think it's a great town and if you don't like it then go away!!!

If you people only realized some of the things that go on at the high schools and probably jr highs you would be surprised, well.....maybe not everyone. Some of you probably are the people or knew the people who destroyed school property or did some of the really bad stuff at school.

Just like mom always said "Treat people how you want to be treated"

mom_of_three 9 years ago

Sometimes, all someone needs is one interaction from someone to know if that person is good or bad. I am probably the only parent in the world who didn't care for dr. Blackbird at South. Just my opinion, but it's mine, and no one can change it because they were not there in the meeting.
I don't know this assistant principal from LHS, but I will soon find out, as I have one there now, and another next year. Let's hope it's a good interaction.

LadyJ 9 years ago

mom_of_three, actually I know several, you are not alone.

amiordarone 9 years ago

Mom of 3 - You are not alone. I had a few of children graduate from South with two being selected to speak at the 9th grade graduation. Mr. Blackbird couldn't get along with my children nor myself. It was pretty sad when my daughter came home and stated "I don't think he likes me." Mr. Harrod should have had the job as principal before and after Blackbird. I thank my lucky stars he's at Haskel now. As far the newly assigned principal, I haven't heard anything negative and am looking forward to meeting/working with him for the next couple of years.

Steve Jacob 9 years ago

I always thought the principal did not deal that much with the kids, and was just a pencil pusher, and vice principals handled all the kids? Am I correct?

Dayna Lee 9 years ago

I went to LHS for 3 years, and never really had any interaction with the principal. Don't get me wrong, I hated the guy. Last time I checked the job doesn't really have a lot of choices. It's mostly just stating and restating policy. I wish him luck. I'm sure he'll need it.

Also, does this guy look young to you, or am I getting old?

local_support 9 years ago

"It is unfortunate that bloggers (peace_be) can make unfounded, gutless, slanderous, anonymous comments about others and they are taken as fact."

Watch O'Reilly much?

Michael Stanclift 9 years ago

Libel is written Slander is spoken

If we're going to have a conversation about it, at least use the right words ;)

But, agreed about the anonymous part. If people here were forced to verify their identity instead of hiding behind an IP address, I'm sure they'd be a lot less opinionated.

jayhawk166 9 years ago

As a LHS grad Matt is the worst choice possible for this job. The school distric should have done what the parent and teacher councils as well as the students wanted and hired outside the distric. LHS was a fun school whos old leader Steve Nilhas knew everyones name unlike Matt who doesnt even know the names of the kids hes responsible for. However, maybe he will deal with rascist security gaurds that most of the faculty and all of the kids have run ins with. Although hes been there for several years so he apparently has a blind eye to them too.

Sean Livingstone 9 years ago

Parents and kids here,

Some of you complain about him..... being too tough and heartless. Welcome to reality. Suck it up. That's life! If we want to compete with the world, this is the way to go.

Larry Bauerle Jr. 9 years ago

With the complaining going on here, he must be the perfect choice.

roggy 9 years ago

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo......................................! My kids attended LHS and were extremely active in the school as well as being very good students. I was also very involved so I knew all of the principals. My kids were there when they hired Mr. Brungardt to be assistant principal. We thought that was a terrible hire so you can imagine how my kids feel about him being promoted to principal. Our son called this morning after reading the paper on line and had already sent an email to his sister about the hire! Brungardt was not liked at all but I can only hope for the sake of LHS that he has gotten better with age!
I actually think kids are very intuitive. They are able to tell the best teachers in the school and that does not always mean the most liked teachers. They also have a good read on the principals. I am shocked that they could find anyone to make a positive comment in the paper about Brungardt! Maybe he tried harder this year since he was applying for the job. I am thankful my kids have graduated but very sad for LHS. The pool of candidates must have been awful!

oldcat 9 years ago

Tend to think with all the negative posts here, he was probably a good choice. I think the complainers are those who have a problem with authority figures and following the rules.

roggy 9 years ago

oldcat - my kids never got in trouble at LHS and would be considered the "rule followers". All of the kids liked Mr. Nilhas because there was a mutual respect. I think even those that got into trouble would say that because he was fair. I served on the site council while my kids attended LHS and Mr. Nilhas also had the respect of the parents. There are many duties that the principal performs other than dealing with students and parents. Hopefully, that is Mr. Brungardt's strong suit! He had neither the respect of the parents or students when my kids attended LHS but they have been gone for 4 years. I can only hope that he deals well with the teachers or it is going to be a lonely island for him.

Chimes 9 years ago

I do not know Mr. Brungardt. However, to those who revere the South assistant principal: He has already been promoted to his level of incompetence and should not be allowed to touch a principalship with a ten-foot pole.

His behavior is unprofessional and irresponsible. One time he was explaining the school's "lock-down" procedure; in other words, he was instructing everyone about what to do in case an armed intruder entered the building. Part of the procedure is to make sure no students are left in the hallways/that all are pulled into the nearest room. At this point in his explanation, the assistant principal named a particular student who should be left in the hallway; the student he named was one who did create challenges for educators in the building. This turned into a several-minute comedy routine about how "Bob" (name has been changed) was the one student whom teachers should deliberately leave in the hallway. Sure, it was a joke, but I wonder how "Bob's" parents/guardians would have felt if they knew their student had been the subject of this brand of humor.

Were this an isolated incident, or had the comments been made during a private conversation, it might not be so offensive. However, this was during a presentation to the entire staff.

The principal's sense of ethics is not much more pristine. He chuckled during the "Bob" remarks. He refers to students as "turds" and such. Building administrators are supposed to set a tone of respect and are supposed to serve as advocates for students.

amiordarone 9 years ago

Chimes - I'm sad and disappointed in Mr. Harrod's lack of good judgment. I'm also displeased that Mr. Fernandez would condone this type of behavior by laughing at a distasteful joke. My respect for both men has been diminished. Shame on both of them. Thanks for sharing.

oldcat 9 years ago

Chimes, were you present at this meeting? Or is this just an urban legend?

thetruthshallbe 9 years ago

Pywacket ..perhaps you should not wish that Brundgardt follows Nilhas style and legacy until you know exactly what that was! Do we know exactly why Nilhas is leaving?

ChestyJHawk 9 years ago

I graduated from LHS in 2004 and was on the student board that interviewed Steve and Matt when they were hired before my senior year. Steve did an adequate job, but Matt will prove to be a better leader of the staff, which is what that building needs right now. I've had nothing but good experiences with Dr. Brungardt and can't think of a better direction for Lawrence High to be headed. A bunch of kids who got in trouble in school posting on the internet doesn't worry me much.

unlikelystory 9 years ago

I know personally and have worked with both Dr. Nilhas and Dr. Brungardt, and please let me REASSURE anyone who cares to listen that while their styles may be different, both of them want the best for the students of LHS and the city of Lawrence.

Additionally, please don't fear this as such a mega-change -- the two had a close working relationship at LHS for years, know each other well, and agreed on 90% of decisions. This shouldn't be seen as a huge step away from Nilhas's style. If anything, choosing Brungardt is a sign that LHS should stay, in many positive ways, the same. I wish Matt the best of luck, I know he will work incredibly hard to make LHS as strong as possible, and I wish Steve the very happiest of futures, which he deeply deserves.

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