Twinsburg -- Stepping in for principal Barb Werstler, assistant principal Douglas Higham has been appointed interim principal of Dodge Intermediate School while Werstler will serve as interim pupil personnel director for the city school district.
The readjusted roles for Werstler and Higham were approved by the Board of Education Feb. 20 and the staff changes took effect Feb. 25. Higham is expected to remain Dodge's interim principal for between four and six weeks, while Werstler will serve about the same time as a district administrator, before returning to their old positions.
"She has a background in special education," superintendent Kathryn Powers said of Werstler. "Also, she has been a veteran building principal and has an interest in the work of the pupil personnel office. She was the best candidate for that position."
Pupil Personnel Director Judith Henning, who will retire in May, took a personal leave of absence of up to seven weeks. The district will look to fill the position of pupil personnel director permanently by May 1. Werstler is currently interviewing for Higham's interim replacement as assistant Dodge principal and hopes to have that position filled by March 4.
"I feel great about it," Werstler said. "My background is special education and that's the biggest part of Mrs. Henning's job description. I think it's going to be a challenge to step away from Dodge because this has been my home for 15 years. It's exciting and I'm up for the challenge. I just hope I can do a god job, that's all I want to do."
As interim pupil personnel director, Werstler will have an office at Wilcox Primary School and oversee the district's special education program, ensuring all city schools are in compliance with state and federal special education laws and supporting improved performance among students with learning disabilities. She will also be charged with helping staff members understand and implement special education reform initiatives.
As Dodge's chief administrator in charge of about 1,000 students, Higham said he hopes to "keep the momentum going."
"I think the challenge is to try to keep the momentum going that [Werstler] has put in place here at Dodge," Higham said. "We're an excellent district and excellent school building and I'm just trying to fill her role of keeping things going as they've been going for the last few years."
"He's always looking to get involved in projects and he has taken on multiple leadership roles as the assistant principal," Powers said of Higham. "It just made good sense to ask him to take on this additional leadership role as interim principal. He's proven himself as a leader through lots of committee work and he's involved in a number of things at the district level."
Werstler's salary, $463.51 per day, will not change with the interim appointment, Powers said. Higham's per diem rate, however, will increase by $27.19 per day while he is acting as interim Dodge principal, putting him at $415.17 per day, up from $387.98 per day.
Assistant superintendent Mike Lenzo said the administrative adjustment was made to keep operations at Dodge and on the district level running smoothly, comparing the process to appointing a substitute teacher.
"With administrators, it's a little more of a challenge because there really isn't a pool of people that are just used to coming in and filling in," Lenzo said. "In an effort to try to transition through one of our other administrators being on leave, this is just kind of a reassignment to bring continuity."