Pine-Strawberry Principal Resigning

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Pine-Strawberry School Principal Richard Soikkeli resigned Thursday, effective July 1, during a performance evaluation by the school board.

P-S School Board member Patty Horton said the board did not ask Soikkeli to resign. "He came to us with this," she said.

Soikkeli declined to comment Monday on his reasons for leaving the job after one year. He will complete the school year as co-principal with P-S teacher Kathe Ketchem, who was hired by the board during a special meeting Saturday to stabilize the school's leadership.

Ketchem, an award-winning teacher who has been at P-S School for 16 years, applied for the principal's position last year, but was passed over for Soikkeli.

Soikkeli and Ketchem said Monday that they're excited about their partnership and they plan to focus on curriculum, budget and staff development during the next few months.

"I know with this staff we can accomplish anything," Ketchem said Monday. "The staff is very supportive, and I think they can see the partnership working well. Everyone is very excited."

Ketchem, who teaches third grade at the school, will share her teaching duties with P-S teacher Katie Goldman. Goldman, who won the state's Sally Mae First Year Teacher of the Year Award in 1998, took time off work this year to have a baby.

"My first concern was for my students," Ketchem said. "What about the parents and students and the commitment I've made to them? Katie will job share with me three days a week."

The school board is scheduled to accept Soikkeli's resignation and consider replacement options during its next regular meeting April 13.

Ketchem, who has been an educator for nearly 30 years and won numerous state awards, including Arizona Teacher of the Year, said she plans to apply for the principal's position.

"Kathe is really dynamic and we're really glad she agreed to do this for us," Horton said. "As a board we're thrilled with her abilities. We feel this arrangement will help us take care of things in a much more efficient manner."

John Ketchem, Kathe's husband, was hired by the school board earlier this school year to serve as an advisor to the principal. His position will likely be phased out now, P-S School Board President Karen Randall said.

Horton presented a positive message about the change in administrators.

"We're ending the year in a really dynamic fashion," she said. "If we can end on an upbeat note, we're hoping the kids and the staff will take that with them and come back with that kind of energy."

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