For the fourth time in just as many years, students returning to Central Elementary School were greeted by a different principal on their first day of school.
“You want some consistency, like a business,” said Rob Leimkuhler, a parent at Central School. "Shareholders don’t want a different CEO every year, each CEO has their own spin. The same can be said for having a different principal each year.”
Sharon Dostmann, who has two children at Central, echoed Leimkuhler's concerns.
“I hope the current principal stays," she said. "When Chuck Klaus left after one year, it was easy for my children to understand his move back to the high school but now, they wonder why there is a different principal each year.”
The revolving principal door began when Roger Bowley left in 2010 for another job. Sandra Horwitz followed for a one-year stay before she returned to her former role of assistant principal at Haddonfield Middle School. Klaus left Haddonfield Memorial High School for the lead role at Central but returned to the high school to replace Mike Wilson when he was promoted to assistant superintendent.
Wilson was being recruited by Moorestown for a vacant superintendent position there and Haddonfield officials put together a deal to keep him. School board President Steve Weinstein said Haddonfield educators are often targeted by other districts, contributing to some of the movement in the district, particularly at Central School.
When Wilson vacated the high school principal job, Klaus, who moved in as Central principal in the last school year, was promoted to principal of the high school. Shannon Simkus was tapped for the role of principal at Central for the 2012-13 school year. Four principals in four years at Central Elementary School makes many parents wonder when the revolving door will stop.
“I really liked Roger Bowley, who replaced Terri Freed when she retired in 2007," said Brian Ryan, who has been a Central parent for 15 consecutive years. "I see no difference in my children’s education or negative effect of changing principals, but I would prefer consistency.”
Simkus began her career working with elementary students, progressed to Haddonfield Middle School, which led her to the vice principal position at Haddonfield Memorial High School, but Simkus says her passion was always elementary education.
“I plan on coming back,” said a smiling Simkus when asked if she plans to break the one-year trend set by her predecessors. "The parents and community embraced me and welcomed me in September. I really love Central, the kids and this grade level is what I always wanted.
“Mike Wilson, the current assistant superintendent for Haddonfield is a wonderful mentor for me and told me to spend my first few months building relationships, get to know the students, family and members of the community. Anyone can say they love it and will stay, but the only way to build trust is to show people with actions and everything else will fall in place.”
Another parent, Tom Schaffer, has two children at Central. The oldest is in fifth grade so his family has lived through the annual change in principals. Schaffer said “the kids really like her [Simkus] and many parents like her, too; we just hope she returns after her maternity leave.”
Simkus confirmed that she is expecting her first child in June. “June 20th, which is the end of the school year and I do plan to return,” said a very reassuring Simkus.