School district moves announced
On the first day of school next year, students will be introduced to new principals at four Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District campuses.
With three district principals announcing retirements and one transferring to a different school, TTUSD students and staff will be making adjustments to changes in the fall.
Both Nick Santamaria of Sierra Mountain Middle School and Bill Ellisen of Kings Beach Elementary announced their retirements after more than 30 years of employment in the district.
Glenshire Elementary Principal Susan Ritchie, who has been principal of the school since it opened four years ago and has worked in the district for 15 years, also announced her retirement; and North Tahoe High School Principal Don Beno will be moving to the Truckee side of the district to take over the principalship at SMMS.
All announcements will be effective June 30, according to district officials.
“This district will face the challenge of significant change in a short period of time,” said TTUSD superintendent, Pat Gemma. “Such a challenge is not new. I’m finding there seems to be a pioneering spirit in this district. While we’re regretting the loss of (these principals), we’re welcoming the opportunity that presents itself.”
Gemma met with SMMS staff Wednesday, May 12, to announce that Beno would be transferring from NTHS to the SMMS principal’s position. He said that Beno informed him he was interested in making the move and asked to be considered for the position.
“His rationale varied personally and professionally as to why it was a good move for him,” said Gemma, who said he had support from assistant superintendent Jim Abbott and the district board members. “I could see how making the change from a 9-year commitment brought new energy to him.”
Beno, who has worked at the high school level as a teacher and an administrator for 19 years, is not exactly unfamiliar with middle schools – and more specifically, with SMMS. He has two sons who will be in seventh and eighth grade there next year, and one who has already been through SMMS. Beno has also lived in Truckee for the past nine years.
“Through my kids I’ve met a number of parents and teachers at (SMMS) and I know the community,” said Beno.
“I’m really excited about working with middle school students. It’s going to be a big change for me, but I felt it was time for a change. I saw this as an opportunity to broaden my experience and learn about the middle school level,” he said.
Because NTHS shares facilities with North Tahoe Middle School, Beno has had close contact with middle school students even as high school principal.
“Because they share facilities, I’ve had the opportunity to share experiences with middle school students,” he said. “It’s an exciting age to work with.”
Prior to his nine years as principal for NTHS, Beno worked at a Bay Area school as an assistant principal for four years, and before that taught at the high school level.
“I am excited that Don will be the new principal for a number of reasons. I’m always personally energized to see a professional get recharged. He is a veteran principal that knows how make transitions. SMMS now doesn’t have to wait to go through an interview process that could take three to four months to select someone they don’t know. There can be chaos for a limited period of time and this way continuity can regenerate quicker,” said Gemma.
Gemma said he will be meeting with the NTHS staff to discuss Beno’s replacement this week and that it will hopefully be announced next week.
SMMS assistant principal Susan Phebus said she regrets to see Santamaria leave SMMS, but looks forward to welcoming the new principal.
“I am very sad that he’s (Santamaria) is leaving. I think he has a lot of educational wisdom. With his retirement, I think we lose a lot of his wisdom,” said Phebus, who has worked with Santamaria as assistant principal for the past four years, and has known him within the district for 15 years.
“I look forward to the challenges of the future. It will be different,” she said.
Phebus identified the biggest challenge the school faced with the change would be working as a team for a common goal.
“We have a very strong staff here that will help a new person feel at home,”she said.
Santamaria, who has worked in education for 33 years and in the district for 31 years, feels he is leaving at a good time.
“It’s time. I’ve had 33 great years and now it’s time. You want to retire when you want to and not when you have to,” said Santamaria, referring to a quote he saw in Sports Illustrated as many sport heroes and record holders announced retirement this year.
Santamaria has been the principal at SMMS for the past six years. He began teaching at Tahoe-Truckee High School in 1968 in the sciences. He was assistant principal for TTHS and then principal at Kings Beach Elementary before coming to the middle school.
“I’ve been really fortunate. I’ve been at every level in this district. They are all special and unique,” he said. “I hope I’ve made some positive changes in kids’ lives and I hope I go out on a positive note. I’m going to miss them.”
So what will Santamaria be doing with his time when school’s over?
He plans on taking off with his wife, Judy, in a motor home to see the country.
“Our goal now is traveling and to see the sights,” said Santamaria. “I started working when I was 14 years old, so I’m not sure what this is going to be like.”
Replacements for principals at Glenshire Elementary, Kings Beach Elementary and North Tahoe High School will be announced at the TTUSD June 10 board meeting.
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