A Slew Of New Faces At Payson High School

Payson High School

Photo by Andy Towle. |

Payson High School


At the end of the school year and a round of layoffs, Payson High School (PHS) had an empty counseling department, vacated secretary desks and classrooms without a teacher.

By the beginning of July, administration had filled most of the unoccupied positions, except for a freshman English teacher and auto shop instructor.

At the end of the school year, longtime counselor Judy Michel retired and Don Heizer became the new athletic director, leaving the critical high school counseling department empty.

Principal Anna Van Zile and her committee filled the counselor department with former PHS sophomore English teacher Jennifer White and an outside hire, Linda Griffen, a longtime education counselor from Anchorage, Alaska.

“These two hires strengthen the counseling department,” said Van Zile.

For years, the high school relied on the scheduling talents of Heizer. He made all of the schedules, said Van Zile. Both Griffen and White have the interest and capability to learn the process and technology to create schedules, said the principal.

White brings a diverse background to the position. She has a master’s degree in counseling and has taught all levels of classes from kindergarten through high school, said Van Zile. Last year, she broadened her resume by coaching the girls basketball team at the high school. She has a keen interest in leading student government, but hiring her left an empty slot in the English department.

“Jennifer will do student government,” said Van Zile, “While Linda will take over peer counseling.”

Griffen worked for many years in the Anchorage Unified School District as a counselor, Special Education (SPED) teacher, and then director of the program. She has an interest in taking over the peer counseling staff advisory role vacated by Michel, said Van Zile.

From the secretary pool, PHS will lose registrar Karen Wagner to Northern Arizona University.

“I am moving to Flagstaff,” said Wagner. “I have accepted a position at NAU in the office of the registrar. I am excited and nervous all in one!”

Wagner sat in the counseling department and verified all details of a student’s history. During the last week of school, the seniors kept her on edge up to the last minute verifying if they had enough credits to walk at graduation.

Wagner’s replacement has been hired from the outside and she has started to train the new hire to hit the ground running when school starts.

Kerry Wright, the energetic blond secretary in the front office will return to Payson Center for Success (PCS). She left PCS last year to join the high school team, but expressed excitement over returning to the charter school. “It’s my dream,” she said. Wright particularly enjoys the close working relationship she has with the parents and students of PCS.

A candidate from the outside will replace Wright.

Lorraine Bright will go the district office to replace Nancy Woods in the human resources department. Woods retired this year. Bright will organize all the substitute teachers, take over as district notary, post vacant positions and fulfill various other human resource needs.

Cheryl Woodall will return to replace Bright in her original position as one of the front office secretaries at the high school office.

Ted Tatum will move from teaching social studies at Rim Country Middle School to teaching history at PHS to fill the vacant spot left by Ron Silverman.

Van Zile is particularly pleased with the hiring of Renee Short as the SPED math teacher.

“She is highly qualified in math,” said Van Zile. “We haven’t had anyone highly qualified in math in that position before. She can teach through calculus.”

Short also comes from a Leona school. Leona schools work to raise the bar on public education.

Leona schools started in 1996 by Dr. Bill Coasts with the core belief that each child, regardless of ethnicity, economic status, or educational difficulty can learn.

The Leona schools hire highly qualified teachers and Van Zile appreciates where Short came from.

With the Reduction of Force of six teachers at the end of this year, and the retirement or resignation of six more, the district had reduced the teaching staff to reflect the decline in enrollment. Since the beginning of the school year last year, Payson schools lost about 100 students, significantly affecting how much money the state gave to the district.

Van Zile had hoped to have her whole staff from administration to teachers settled before leaving on her trip to Japan with the Hike and Ski Club on June 28, but the sudden resignation of Doug Eckhart from auto shop, threw a kink into Van Zile’s hiring schedule.

She will return from her trip on July 10, and then must quickly find a freshman English teacher and an auto shop instructor.

Van Zile needs to find candidates that have the necessary credentials and skills.

“They must be able to teach,” said Van Zile.


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