Students will experience unique school identities at East, West
By Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief
This year the West Bend High Schools welcome a new principal, but wait… there’s more! Attend school now, and you will get not one, but two principals.
Over the summer the school board made the decision to restore West Bend East and West High Schools, which share a campus, to its traditional model of two head principals. Classes will still remain somewhat mixed, containing both East and West students. Administration is aiming for a smooth transition.
“There will be subtle changes,” said Ralph Schlass, the new West principal. “This is a real opportunity for students to experience what it used to be like when we had two administrations in one building, and I want people to know this won’t affect their education in any negative way. If anything, it’s going to enhance it.”
While the basic structure of the two schools will remain mostly untouched, the new administrations are making a move to distinguish the two schools from each other, promoting a more intimate environment. To accomplish this, school events such as pep rallies and Class meetings will occasionally be separated by school.
“I feel like you can get lost in the shuffle a little bit,” Schlass said. “I want to bring back the feeling of unity and fun. Instead of sitting in a room with 600 students, sitting in a room with 300 feels a little safer.”
Schlass also plans on injecting a new sense of spirit within the West administration, using the mantra Serving, Learning, Achieving, Together.
“West students should be proud to bleed blue,” Schlass said.
Darci VanAdestine, the new East principal, is focusing on the school climate as well.
“I don’t see much changing for students, just more spirit and positivity for East, and West pride will start coming to the surface,” VanAdestine said.
VanAdestine also plans to continue working closely with the West administration for the logistics of running the schools, while establishing a distinct East and West image.
“The times when we meet apart are the times when we are trying to build the climate and culture for East and the culture for West, by trying different things or maybe different fundraisers and events,” VanAdestine said. “I like to think of it as a big cake. We operate as a building on the cake part, and the icing on the top is East and West icing.”
Schlass has the same view.
“I don’t look at this as a competition,” he said. “I’ll leave the competition to the sports teams. We are still here to serve students from West Bend. We are keeping our offices here in the same area, because we want to be able to collaborate with one another. I believe six heads are better than one.”
Each principal will have two assistants. Working with VanAdestine at East High will be Jennifer Johannsen and Tyler Wood. Alongside Schlass at West High, Patrick O’Connor will serve as assistant principal, with one position still to be filled.
“This is a real opportunity for students to experience what it used to be like when we had two administrations in one building.”
– Ralph Schlass
The school board began exploring the possible reorganization of the high schools’ administration in July, as the district searched for a principal to replace Tracey Conners, who served as interim principal during the 2016-17 school year.
“The board felt there was more than one qualified candidate and was split on which one could best lead two high schools,” said Tiffany Larson, president of the school board. “A member asked administration as to whether a return to one principal per high school might be a consideration.”
Both new principals have had ample experience within the school district. Schlass attended East High himself, leading the football, baseball and basketball teams and serving as president of the National Honor Society. He began his career in the district as an English teacher and spent many years as an assistant principal at West.
“I thought I could make a bigger difference if I got into administration,” Schlass said. “When you do that you move from working with just students to all of a sudden working with students, parents, the community and teachers.”
This year will be VanAdestine’s fifth in the district. She began as an East assistant principal and then served three years as the director of teaching and learning for the high schools. Before she came to West Bend she was a technical arts teacher at Waukesha STEM Academy.
“I feel like I can have a bigger impact than in just my own classroom by being able to teach and coach other teachers, so that’s why I went into leadership, and eventually administration,” VanAdestine said.
(Top photo: Darci VanAdestine, the head principal at West Bend East High School. Photos by Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief.)