Elementary School Hires Principal

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Julia Randall Elementary School and its leadership are no longer in limbo.

On Jan. 10, interim principal Peggy Miles dropped the "interim" after the Payson school board awarded her a full-appointment contract through the 2005-2006 school year.

The board's decision was made in executive session at the conclusion of the regular meeting. Several JRE teachers were in attendance to show support for Miles.

Although board member Albert Hunt said he could not comment about Miles' new contract because the decision was made in executive session, school superintendent Herb Weissenfels threw his support behind the new principal.

"I have a lot of faith in Peggy that she can do an outstanding job," he said. "Now, she has an opportunity to make her own path."

"I've enjoyed this year and I'm looking forward to the next few years," Miles said. "JRE deserves consistency, and I'd like to be the person to provide that for the school."

Miles, previously a physical education teacher and Intervention Specialist at Payson High School, was appointed as JRE interim principal at the July 12 school board meeting, just two weeks before the beginning of the school year.

Miles replaced Ardith Potter who had resigned to accept a position in special services at the district office.

Miles received the job and temporary title on short notice following an unusual set of events.

According to Weissenfels, the job opening was originally advertised in early May and a candidate was offered the position.

"Because of a low salary, that person turned it down," Weissenfels said.

A second candidate was selected, but did not have the necessary administrative certification. With that, four possibilities for an interim principal position remained -- Miles and three candidates from outside the district, Weissenfels said.

Eventually, the administration decided to offer the job to Miles.

"She was interested in it all along," Weissenfels said.

At that time, Weissenfels said the position would be re-evaluated in early January to determine whether to hire Miles or reopen the job search.

Almost from her first day on the job, Miles found herself in the middle of a controversy involving overloaded fourth-grade classrooms.

At JRE, fourth-grade classes averaged about 27 pupils. At Frontier Elementary School, the class load was about 23 and at Payson Elementary School, it was 19.

The situation had a group of parents, led by Marlene Armstrong and Linda Jackson, lobbying district administrators and the school board.

Although disagreements between the parents and district administrators surfaced, Armstrong and Jackson said that they supported the interim principal.

In a letter to the editor in the Roundup, Armstrong wrote, "Mrs. Miles is an absolute asset to Julia Randall Elementary School. She has taken the time to meet with us, answer our questions openly and honestly.

"When she did not know the answer or asked for time to research what we were asking, she did so expediently."

In mid-September, the school board asked Miles, and all other site principals, to solve problems, like overcrowding, on their campuses rather than dealing with the issue at the district or board level.

Miles could face the overcrowding problem again next school year when the fourth-graders reach fifth-grade at JRE.

If contributions to the Credit for Kids tax program are an indication of parental support for a school, JRE is in good standing.

For 2004, JRE received $28,663.83. That amount represents an increase of $7,712.36 over 2003 --he largest increase among all district schools.

When Miles is not performing her administrative duties, she is an avid long distance runner. Most recently, she participated in the Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 Marathon in Phoenix. Last month she was among a foursome of Payson elementary school principals and teachers who competed in the Holualoa Marathon near Tucson.

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