Board appoints new high school principal
When South Tahoe High School opens its doors on Tuesday, the new principal greeting students will have a familiar face.
Karen Ellis, the school’s former associate principal, has been selected by the school board to replace Bill Murray, the former principal who resigned in July.
“Karen brings a great deal of experience with her to the job,” said David Kurtzman, president of the Lake Tahoe Unified School District Board of Trustees. “We’re looking forward to a new perspective at the high school and a focus on academic achievement.”
This fall, Ellis begins her 30th year in education. She came to South Tahoe High School 11 years ago as head counselor. Two years later she became associate principal. Over the past nine years, much of her job has involved overseeing budgets, master scheduling, curriculum, staff evaluations and a portion of the disciplinary duties.
“This summer, Karen put this school together when we had no direction – someone had to take over,” said STHS counselor and coach Tim Jaureguito. “Now she’s officially in charge – it’s a natural transition. Karen’s got great support from teachers, students and parents. She’s been here for many years and is known for her fairness and honesty.”
Upon learning of her promotion, the entire football team came into her office – one by one – to congratulate her.
“I felt my eyes watering,” said Ellis. “I’m absolutely thrilled to be here – I love the students and the staff. Our No. 1 theme is teamwork and collaboration.”
Out of 26 applicants, four were interviewed by an 18-member panel comprised of teachers, administrators, classified district personnel and community members. Ellis was the only person from the district to be interviewed.
“Karen’s been a trusted, loyal employee through thick and thin,” said interview panelist and Tahoe Youth and Family Services Executive Director Teri Mundt. “She’s been a good advocate for at-risk kids and collaborated with us in providing services for those kids. She’s ready to take a leadership role.”
Ellis, 51, earned bachelor’s degrees in psychology and physical education from Ball State University in Indiana in 1968. Teacher-recruiters from California enticed her to accept her first job in Anaheim, Calif., where she taught P.E. and health at a junior high school for five years. Ellis then went on to get her counseling degree at the University of California, Irvine, before becoming a counselor at Mission Viejo High School in Orange County.
Later, she moved to Truckee High School, where she worked as a counselor for five years before coming to South Tahoe.
Since then, Ellis has earned a preliminary administrative credential from the University of San Francisco and a second-tier professional administrative credential from Sacramento State University in 1994.
Ellis said her goals for the upcoming year include a renewed focus on learning, assessment and creating a balance of academics with activities and athletics. The school is also gearing up for renewal of its Western Association of Schools and Colleges accreditation.
“In the future, we’re looking at some sort of basic skills test at the 10th-grade level,” Ellis said. “I want to be sure all kids leave here with the necessary skills.”
Administrators have not yet decided who will fill the associate principal position.
Ellis’ husband, Jim Ellis, is the director of special services for Lake Tahoe Unified School District. They have two children, ages 23 and 26. Both live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“I’m very confident in Mrs. Ellis’ ability to be an outstanding principal for South Tahoe High,” said Superintendent Rich Alexander. “Not only is she aware of the high school’s many accomplishments, but also the direction it needs to improve. She has a strong academic focus, excellent communication skills and will be able to involve students, staff and community in this on-going improvement process.”
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