By Angela Denning, KFSK
Petersburg’s longtime secondary principal quit and took a job running Ketchikan High School. Rick Dormer made the announcement public on Tuesday.
In an emailed letter to students and parents, Dormer wrote that the decision was very difficult. In an interview with KFSK, he sometimes cried.
Dormer says it’s a professional gesture for him. He served as the Principal of Petersburg Middle and High Schools for 13 years, with a student population of approximately 225.
Ketchikan High School has about 550 students and its size will more closely match Dormer’s training. He worked in Portland, Oregon, at a school of 2,000 students before moving to the small town of Petersburg. Over the past decade he has worn many hats as director of 6and up to 12and students and he looks forward to what a bigger school can offer.
“We will have an assistant manager and, you know, a sporting director is different. They have an administrative assistant, so it’s a different structure,” he said. “Although I love Petersburg and a small city, there are things I miss about the big city structure and type.”
He sees it as moving from one successful school to another, both with supportive communities and good results. St. Petersburg High School was ranked the best in the state and the number two college in the state. Meanwhile, Ketchikan has a 90% attendance and a 91% graduation rate. Dormer says he will support what is already happening there.
“I’m not going to come in and start pushing buttons and flipping switches right away,” he said. “The idea is to watch and absorb and so I would encourage the next director of Petersburg to come and soak up the excellence that our students and staff are doing right now.”
Erica Kludt-Painter is the Superintendent of Petersburg. She worked with Dormer for 13 years as a supervisor and co-worker when she was the primary school principal.
“I’m sad and happy for him,” she said. “We will miss him.”
She says he has a good relationship with the kids and takes time to build those relationships.
“He’s a very positive leader. He’s upbeat,” Kludt-Painter said. “I rarely see him, you know, really down and I think that’s one of his best traits.”
Dormer will work in Petersburg until mid-June and start his new job in August. His wife, Jill Dormer, who works at the Petersburg Medical Center, and his son, who will be in second grade next year, will stay in Petersburg to continue working and studying. He says he will come often.
Kludt-Painter says they have already posted the position and will create a hiring committee. But she says those are big shoes to fill in a tough job market.
The district has been trying to hire a counselor since January. Kludt-Painter says it’s very difficult right now.
“We face the same type of professional challenges that many other districts have faced for years,” Kludt-Painter said. “We’re definitely reaching them right now and we’re seeing that in the pool of candidates, even for some of our elementary level positions. We certainly see a reduced number of applicants.
As part of the hiring process, the school district plans to send out a survey to get feedback from parents and families. They want to know what qualities they value most in a principal and what priority areas they would like to see addressed in future school years.