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Same schools, different jobs

8/18/2013

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

There are a lot of changes at both local high schools this year, including the man -- and woman -- in charge.

Marty Straub had nearly an entire school year to plan for his move up from assistant principal at Hays High School after then-principal Mike Hester announced his retirement in March of 2012, effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Straub accepted the principal's job in September.

Kathy Taylor's transition from guidance counselor to principal was less than a month in the making. Bill DeWitt resigned in April as principal at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School, and Taylor officially was offered the job in early July.

Both have had to adjust to bigger offices, larger desks and more responsibilities.

Hays High School is a Class 5A school with an enrollment of approximately 800 students.

TMP is a 3A school with 248 students in the high school, including a large number of residential students from foreign countries; another 138 students make up the TMP junior high, in its second year, that operates out of the same building.

Despite the size differences in Hays High and TMP, similarities abound for their new principals, who have worked in their current buildings for more than 45 years combined.

They each have had three children graduate from their respective schools, which both will see some major changes in faculty this year after numerous retirements last spring.

Both are glad to be on familiar ground and agree continuity in their schools is a real plus. And both stress it's a team effort that promises for a smooth school year ahead.

Now, Straub and Taylor just have to get used to that new title -- and all that comes with it.

Just remove word 'assistant'

Straub moved into his new office this summer with the help of his wife, Mary, who also helped him tear off wallpaper and paint the walls.

He didn't have far to move. For the past 19 years, he had set up shop right next door in his assistant principal's office.

As an assistant to Theresa Davis, then Hester, Straub was in charge of numerous areas, including special education and science and school safety, supervision and testing.

Now, he said, "I need to get better at delegating."

Straub had an ideal scenario making the step up, with Hester still in the building for several months after Straub was announced as HHS' next principal.

"Mike was good about including me in things right away," Straub said. "Last year, everything that had to do with the (coming) school year, he would defer to me."

Straub was perfectly happy with his job, which had brought him back closer to family.

"I haven't ever looked for other jobs," said Straub, who came to HHS in 1994 after 10 years of teaching, coaching and administration in the Wichita area.

"And I never had my eyes on this job," Straub said.

However, Straub said after discussions with the superintendent, "it was a decision that made the most sense."

"If I wanted to stay in this school district, I needed to do what they need to me to do," he said.

Straub said he knows he will learn "as I go" and listed three main areas he has targeted to do just that -- "planning with regards to staff development, budgeting and far more teachers to evaluate."

"I will do my best," he said. "Hopefully, it's enough."

No stranger to changes

The hardest adjustment, so far anyway, for Taylor has been sitting at a large desk and a large office.

Her former office was no bigger than a large closet, and as a counselor, she never had a desk separating her and the student with whom she was working.

"I stayed in my little office as long as I could," Taylor said last week. "I kept referring to this as Bill's office. Guess it's time to change."

Taylor is used to changing directions in a hurry.

Taylor was just one year into her teaching career back in the late 1980s when Eugene Flax, then the counselor at TMP, died of a heart attack about a week before the start of school.

Taylor was nearing completion of her master's degree in counseling and was chosen to step in for Flax. That was 26 years ago, and she has worn numerous hats at the school over the years.

"If you are called to do a job, you've got to trust that God has a plan for you, and go with it," Taylor said.

However, the title -- and job -- of principal "wasn't ever on my radar screen."

After her last child graduated from TMP in 2012, Taylor had said "I was ready to move on to something else, and I thought I would know when the time is right."

That time came sooner than she thought.

"I was sure thinking of a different direction," Taylor said, "but after the successful year we had last year (in the junior high's inaugural year), we didn't want to lose any momentum, which can happen with someone completely new coming in."

Taylor's duties now include mentoring a new counselor, Amy Wilson, who comes to TMP from the Plainville school district.

"It's a blessing to be able to choose your own replacement," Taylor said. "You build things a certain way, you know what the job entails, and you know what kind of person your school needs."

"It was such a great fit, it made it easy," she said of Wilson, who taught business classes at TMP in the 1990s.

"She said it was like coming home," said Taylor, who said she is glad she also stayed "home."

"When I was thinking more than I was praying, I was saying 'no,' " she said of taking on the role of principal. "When I was praying more than I was thinking, I was saying 'yes.' "

Prayer -- and "yes" -- won out.