ELKTON — As the new school year approaches, Cecil County Public Schools students prepare to enter new grades and even new schools. But the students are not the only members of the CCPS community who are entering a new environment.
In the annual staffing reassessment, CCPS has reassigned four principals and 17 assistant principals to new schools.
Foye heads to EHS
David Foye, who most recently served as the principal of North East High School, will become the principal at Elkton High School. Former EHS principal John Roush has moved to a new central office role, director of student and school safety.
Foye said both high schools are unique in their own rights — Elkton has fewer students but a newer building, while North East has more students in an older building. However, he said both schools value the role of technology in learning.
As Elkton’s principal, Foye said he will be focused on increasing student achievement, graduation rates, scholarships that students receive, and student acceptance into colleges and military service.
Foye acknowledged that there may be a learning curve to accomplishing these goals, especially with Elkton High School also getting two new assistant principals. However, he was confident that his team would get the job done.
“It will really be all of us getting on the same page, being goal-oriented,” he said.
Foye was an North East High School assistant principal for four years and principal for three years. He said the transition will be bittersweet.
“I will miss the students and the families,” he said. “You get a chance to meet siblings that enter the school system. You get the chance to meet families … But I’m looking forward to new experiences. I’m excited. Just as excited as the students are for the new school year.”
Dollenger takes over NEHS
David Dollenger, who previously served as the principal of the Cecil County School of Technology, will take over for Foye as principal of North East High School.
“[At CCST] we took people from all five high schools. It was a diverse program. It was all career technology education. Here [at North East High School] it’s comprehensive … We still have a large amount of kids that go up to the School of Tech every other day, but they come back here, they graduate from here, this is their home school, this is where they play sports.”
CCPS is currently in the hiring process to fill the principal position at the Cecil County School of Technology, and should reach a decision in about three weeks, according to Teresa Watkins, executive secretary in the CCPS’s Division of Administrative Services.
Dollenger worked as an office administrator at Elkton High School for nine years, as the assistant principal at Perryville High School for five years, and principal at CCST for three years. He said it was wonderful being at CCST, but he is excited to return to a comprehensive school like the ones he worked at previously.
“Every time [CCPS has] transferred me from Elkton to Perryville, and Perryville to the School of Tech, and the School of Tech to here, I’ve always missed the people that I worked with,” he said. “The teachers are there for a reason, which is to make an impact. I’m going to miss that, but I’m going to look forward to this at the same time.”
During his time as principal of CCST, Dollenger said he was present for the school to transition to its new building, switch to an A/B day schedule, and adding several new programs.
Now at North East High School, Dollenger wants to continue the work that Foye set in motion.
“Mr. Foye, who went to Elkton, left everything in real good shape … We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that students are successful, do the best they can, and get them ready for the real world,” Dollenger said.
Sopa back to elementary
Meanwhile at the younger levels, Denise Sopa will be the new principal at Bay View Elementary School.
Sopa was most recently the principal at North East Middle School for four years, but she is no stranger to elementary schools.
Before taking the helm at North East, Sopa taught at Kenmore Elementary School for 10 years and North East Elementary School for one, was the assistant principal at Thomas Estates Elementary School for two and a half years and Gilpin Manor Elementary School for six months, and was principal at Cecil Manor Elementary School for six years. This will be her 25th year of service with CCPS.
Sopa said that transferring back to elementary school will be a homecoming of sorts for her.
“With the exception of the last four years, my entire career has been spent in elementary school,” she said. “This transition has been easier so far than four years ago when I moved to middle school because of my previous elementary experience.”
However, Sopa acknowledges that the elementary school level is not exactly the same as when she left it and she will have a lot to learn.
“A lot has changed since I’ve been in middle school, such as curriculum, the schedule, and the Elementary Grading and Reporting policy,” she said.
Sopa said she has been meeting with each content coordinator to learn about the impact of curricular changes. She has also been collaborating with Bay View Elementary School Assistant Principal Rebecca Miller to learn more about the students, staff, and everything else at Bay View to prepare for the new school year.
“My priority is to spend time getting to know the students, staff, parents and community and to continue the great work that has been happening there,” Sopa said. “It’s important to take the time to learn about and understand the culture of a school to be able to determine initiatives moving forward.”
Sopa said that it is particularly rewarding to be able to work with students who are just beginning their education.
“Most are excited to go to school, and it is a pleasure to watch them ‘unlock the code’ to reading, writing and math, and to develop their independence,” she said.
For some children who are unfamiliar with the school setting, Sopa said starting elementary school can seem daunting at first but that she and the rest of the staff are here to help guide students and their families through these new experiences.
“Our job is to help them and their parents adjust to new routines and expectations,” she said.
Sopa said entering a new environment may feel a bit uneasy at first, but that she has made the transition many times before and has grown from each experience.
“Change is uncomfortable; however, I have experienced the greatest personal and professional growth each time I have transitioned to a new school,” she said.
Sopa added that she hopes to see many familiar faces at her new school since many Bay View students are the younger siblings of North East students.
“Bay View Elementary School feeds into North East Middle School so I am fortunate to continue to work with the younger children of some of the same families as I continue to serve the North East community,” she said.
Evans receives principalship
Replacing Sopa as the principal of North East Middle School will be Anthony Evans, who most recently was an assistant principal at Bohemia Manor High School for a year. Prior to that he served as an AP for four years at Perryville High School and six years at Elkton High School.
Although this will be his first position as a principal, Evans said the assistant principals at North East will be an asset to him as he navigates the middle school.
“I have been very lucky to have been given three assistant principals with a lot of knowledge of the middle school and the policies and expectations in regards to how operations run on the middle school level,” he said.
Evans added that his experience as a high school assistant principal will help him prepare middle schoolers for high school and beyond.
“I think it helps to bring some standards from the high school so that you know what kids are expected to do once they reach the high school level to graduate,” he said.
Evans said that over the summer, workers have been painting parts of the school and installing Bulldogs signage to “give it a makeover” and increase school spirit.
“I think it’s very important for [students and the community] to come into a building every day that is welcoming,” he said.
With the end of August right around the corner, Evans said he is excited to work with students, families and other community members to prepare the kids as they move forward.
“The beginning of the school year is always a good time because you spend the summer preparing and coming up with ideas and getting everything ready to go,” he said. “When the students get here and enter the building, that’s the most important part.”
New super’s outlook
During a July 18 interview with the Whig, when he was asked about the school system’s longtime policy of reassigning school leaders to provide different professional experiences, new CCPS Superintendent Jeffrey Lawson said he values stability and consistency among school administrators.
“I don’t want to move people simply for the sake of moving people,” Lawson said. “If a school is functioning well and the school administration team is performing at a high level, there’s no need to change that.”
However, Lawson also acknowledged that reassignments can provide administrators, particularly assistant principals, with opportunities to develop and grow.
“We’re really working to give our assistant principals different opportunities in different schools to prepare them to be principals … What an assistant principal is asked to do at Elkton High School might look very different than what an assistant principal is asked to do at Bohemia Manor Middle School,” he said.
Lawson said it was important to strengthen the line of succession within the school system.
“My job is to take these young professionals as they come along and take them from Point A to Point B and develop them so that when I’m gone, when the other more senior leaders are gone, we leave solid leadership in place,” he said.
Assistant principal moves
There will be four elementary schools with new assistant principals.
Catharine Benner has become an assistant principal at Cecil Manor Elementary School, Donald Foskey-Raimer at Gilpin Manor Elementary School, John Weaver at Thomson Estates Elementary School, and Kimberly Whitney at Elk Neck Elementary School.
Six assistant principals will be joining the ranks at five middle schools.
Travis Benner and Matthew Wharton have become assistant principals at North East Middle School, Jody Dallas at Cherry Hill Middle School, Edmund Fontana at Rising Sun Middle School, Adam Goodwin at Elkton Middle School, Kimberly Sands at Bohemia Manor Middle School.
Five high schools are gaining seven assistant principals.
Erick Brown and James Leitgeb have become an assistant principals at Elkton High School, Day Mashongamhende and Jennifer Shaw at Bohemia Manor High School, John Drew at North East High School, Jennifer Hood at Perryville High School, and Sterling Seemans at Rising Sun High School.