SHS goes back to "traditional approach’ for principal position
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit School District is dismantling its co-principal system at the high school, leaving Frank Mencin as the sole principal.
His former work partner, Peggy Kastberg, has been named director of special programs for the district. In that position, she will be responsible for programs such as special education, gifted, ESL, International Baccalaureate and education for the disabled. Kastberg will open the school year at Summit High School, transitioning by the end of the calendar year to the district office.
The district will search for an assistant high school principal to work with Mencin; that person is expected to start with the new school year.
“We’re going back to a more traditional approach to school administration,” said Summit Schools Superintendent Wes Smith.
Earlier this year, a majority of high school teachers responded to a teachers’ association survey that said the school suffered from a morale problem that centered around the principals and has been building for a couple of years. Mencin and Kastberg have worked as co-principals for three years. But Smith did not confirm or deny that the changes at the high school are in response to those morale issues.
“We’re really responding to what I and the board see as the needs of the district and the best way to serve those needs,” he said. “We’re assigning people in the places where they’ll be most effective.
“We’re responding to the emergence of substantial special ed and ESL needs that are happening across the country and in our district,” he said. “We’re responding to demographic changes and also changes in expectations.”
Mencin and Kastberg agreed.
“There are more morale issues in businesses than people would like to talk about,” Mencin said. “I’ve always said, “Nobody likes the boss.’ Some people do their own thing and when they get called on the carpet, they don’t like it.”
Mencin said he couldn’t guarantee the change in administration would mean “it’s going to be any better or worse over here anyway.”
“I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned,” he said.
Joel Hecht, president of the Summit Education Association, was pleased by the announcement.
“Many high school teachers were not convinced the co-principalship was the best way to organize our high school administration,” he said. “I applaud Wes Smith for his willingness to listen to teacher input and to move us back to a more traditional approach.”
Mencin said the announcement, which came about 10 days ago, took him by surprise.
“I was kind of startled by this,” he said. “I told Wes I think the timing is poor. If he knew about this plan in June, why didn’t we execute it in June when we had time to move forward? Hunting season for a decent replacement is not now when school starts because traditionally people already have jobs. The high school has been known for transition and change, and I don’t think this helps us right now. I’ll do the best I can do and that’s all I can do.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for (Kastberg), and a great opportunity for me,” he added.
Smith said the timing is a result of the school district having a full plate of issues with which to deal.
“We have been dealing with middle school principal appointments, we were looking for an elementary principal and spending a lot of time dealing with this Silverthorne issue,” he said, referring to the as-yet-unresolved location of a new Silverthorne elementary school. “So things may have been decided earlier in the summer had things not taken the course they did.”
Kastberg said she believes she and Mencin made a good team, but said her priority remains the students.
“Yes, second semester I won’t be here in the building as I have in the past,” she said. “But I’m committed to the high school. Frank and I – our focus has always been on the students. My goal is to keep as connected to the students of Summit County as possible. That’s going to be critical for me in this job because that’s why I became an educator.”
“You’ve got to have this balance, and we’ve done that well,” Mencin said. “We look forward in the future to bringing in somebody who can complement myself.”
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