Four Garden City USD 457 principals will leave the district and several others will face position changes and transfers before the 2018-19 school year.

Abe Hubert Elementary School Principal Martha Darter will resign effective June 8, Gertrude Walker Elementary School Principal Phillip Keidel will retire effective Aug. 1 and Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center principal Deznee Soza will resign effective June 22.

Mark Ronn, principal of the Garden City Alternate Education Center, Garden City Virtual Academy and the district’s Therapeutic Education Program, also will retire effective in June. He will be replaced in July by Mark Felvus, a high school counselor in Marion, said USD 457 Superintendent Steve Karlin.

Darter has worked for the district for 25 years, many of them as an administrator at Buffalo Jones, Plymell, Jennie Barker and Abe Hubert elementary schools, she said. She’s been with her current school, Abe Hubert, for five years.

Darter said she had been planning on moving east for a while and recently accepted a principal position at Northern Hills Elementary in Topeka.

Soza, a first-time principal, is returning to Wichita after one year with the district. She said she has accepted an assistant principal position at Mayberry Middle School in USD 259, where she spent 10 years as a teacher. The decision to leave was a personal one, she said, but she was grateful and thankful to the district for her job at Bernadine Sitts. She said there were more reasons for her to stay than go, but she ultimately chose what was best for her family by moving closer to her fiance.

Ronn has been with the district for 28 years, Karlin said, teaching social studies at Kenneth Henderson Middle School and Garden City High School and serving as an administrative dean and associate principal at the high school. He has spent six years as the first principal of the district’s alternative and virtual educational programs.

Keidel has worked as a teacher for the district’s adult education Bison Program, an associate principal at the high school, was the district’s transportation director and then principal of Gertrude Walker, amounting to eight years total with the district. He’s headed Gertrude Walker for four years.

Keidel said he had been eligible to retire for several years and said no specific reason led to his decision to leave the school this year.

“I think I’m ready for the next step, whatever that may be. And I don’t know what it is,” Keidel said.

Karlin said he could not comment on the specifics of any of the principals’ departures because they were personnel matters.

Several other district principals’ positions will change for the upcoming school year. Garfield Early Childhood Center Principal Josh Guymon will become Abe Hubert’s principal after Darter leaves the district.

Two other principal positions have changed, though not because of the retirements and resignations, Karlin said. Georgia Matthews Elementary School Principal Carma Harman’s position has been redefined as .70 principal at Georgia Matthews and .30 assistant principal at Garfield effective July 1.

Karen Murrell, whose time is currently split down the middle as Jennie Barker Elementary School principal and Bernadine Sitts associate principal, also will see a position change. She will instead be principal at Jennie Barker and associate principal at Abe Hubert, starting July 1.

Similarly, Linda Finch, current Plymell principal and Charles O. Stones Intermediate Center associate principal, will be Plymell principal and Alta Brown Elementary School associate principal next year, Karlin said.

Karlin said the district heard about some of the principals’ departures fairly recently. He said Keidel’s was finalized in mid-April and Soza’s last week.

The district, led by Deputy Superintendent Heath Hogan, has begun searching for the open principal positions, Karlin said. He said all jobs are posted internally and advertised statewide.

The hunt for Soza and Guymon’s replacements at Bernadine Sitts and Garfield are in the early stages, Karlin said, though he hopes Hogan will begin interviews for the former in mid-June.

Karlin said Gertrude Walker’s process is farther along, and he expects Hogan to begin interviewing candidates in late May or early June.

Karlin said all positions will be filled by August.

“The sooner we can do it, the better,” he said.

Next year’s administration will be aided by Teachers on Special Assignment, or TOSAs, a two-year program where district teachers can gain administrative experience. Karlin said in February, the district created two new TOSA positions for next year, one that will work at both Bernadine Sitts and Charles O. Stones and another at the elementary level. They will join the district’s other two TOSAs at the elementary level and one part-time TOSA at Horace Good Middle School.


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