New Vp Ready To Make Name For Himself

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Payson High School's newly appointed vice principal has spent the past 12 years of his life at PHS, teaching vocational auto repair and computer-aided drafting, so you'd think most of the students and faculty would at least know his name.

But no. He is not William Maher. Nor is he Bill Maher nor Bill-Dan Maher, as some wags have dubbed him.

Plainly and simply, his actual, true-life moniker is write this down, kids, it'll come in handy Dan Maher.

Or Danny Maher.

"My name has been a problem for a long time," Maher says with an exasperated laugh. "My given name is William, and my father's name is William. But when I was young, my mother didn't want two Bills or two Williams, so I picked up the nickname Dan from my middle name, Jordan.

"Dan or Danny is what I've been called all my life. If you yell 'Bill' or 'William' at me on the street, I probably won't turn around."

So how did he become William/Bill/Bill-Dan Maher?

"When you start a new job, the paperwork contains your given name," Maher says. "I didn't want to make waves, so for the first couple of years I let everyone call me Bill or William. Finally, I got around to asking everyone to call me Dan ... and that's when some of my co-workers started calling me Bill-Dan."

With that burning issue finally laid to rest, Maher, 54, is now free to prepare for his new role, new office and new secretaries at PHS.

"I'd just completed my 12th year of teaching in Payson," he says, explaining why he sought the vice principal position. "I enjoyed the classroom, but there comes a point when you feel like a change is needed. I've had the certified-principal credentials for about 10 years, so I thought I'd apply for it when Barry Smith left the position and went to Miami."

When the board members of the Payson Unified School District unanimously gave him their stamp of approval last month, Maher says, "I was very glad that I had applied. This opportunity is new, different, exciting, and a little bit scary."

Maher's first assignment, he says, is to make the transition from being a mentor for students to being a mentor for the school's incoming crop of brand-new teachers.

"Right off the bat, what we have planned for me this year is to help those teachers, right there in the classroom. That will make the job-switch easier for me, I think, because already I miss being in the classroom. I absolutely loved it."

Born and raised in "a small town called Phoenix, Arizona," Maher has lived in this state his entire life and, he adds, "I'll probably never leave."

Maher earned his master's degree in principalship at Arizona State University; picked up a master's degree in higher-end administration at the University of Arizona; and completed his graduate work at Northern Arizona University.

"Since I went to all three Arizona colleges," Maher says, "I can root for any team."

Maher's teaching career proceeded to unfold exclusively in Arizona. "I've taught in places like Douglas and Tombstone, Prescott and the Valley," he says. "I can't imagine working in any other state."

But Maher has been imagining a job change for a few years now.

"I was going to get into administrative work a couple of years ago, but then I promised a couple of students that I wouldn't (quit teaching) until they graduated. Well, they graduated last year, so it became my turn to leave."

Maher's entry into the administration end of PHS did not take place without some controversy, which he is still at a loss to explain and which was summarized by a letter to the editor mailed to the Roundup last month:

"It has come to my attention that the Payson School District recently hired a (vice principal) for one of the schools who has made the statement, 'morality doesn't belong in the schools,'" the author writes, "What kind of lunacy is that? This is a man the entire town of Payson doesn't need ... I, for one, don't want my grandchildren anywhere near the man who was selected for this austere position. What kind of example will he be setting for our young people? ..."

"I'm not familiar with that quote," Maher says with the same exasperated laugh that accompanied his comments on the Bill-Dan issue. "I would never make a statement like that. Obviously, we need morality in our schools."

Maher says he can only wager a guess as to the origin of the quote.

"I remember having a discussion once in which somebody said something like, 'The school should be responsible for dictating morality in the home,' and I disagreed with that. Maybe that's where it came from.

"The school district has an obligation to the students during school and during the after-school activities that we do ... but to dictate morality at home? I don't think that's our obligation."

In making the decision to hire Maher for his new job, PUSD Superintendent Herb Weissenfels said, the board members had heard about the comment Maher is said to have made, "but after talking with him, we agreed that (the controversy) was a non-issue. We had no problems with hiring Mr. Maher at all."

Should any other issues or controversies arise, Maher says he hopes that all concerned parties will go straight to the horse's mouth.

"I'm very easy to talk to," he says. "All anyone has to do is call me, and I could probably explain whatever it is that people might want to know about me."

Just remember: When you call, ask for Dan.

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