WATERLOO - A Clarksville teacher and coach will be the new principal at Sacred Heart School.
Roger Ahrens of Tripoli will start his duties at the Catholic elementary and middle school July 1. He replaces Julie Niemeyer, who is leaving Sacred Heart to become principal of St. Athanasius School in Jesup.
Ahrens has been teaching and coaching in Clarksville's junior high and high school for the past four years. But his 29-year career in education includes plenty of experience as an administrator.
He worked as a principal and an assistant superintendent in Little Rock. He was superintendent of the Tripoli schools and then a principal in the Nashua-Plainfield district. Ahrens' first two years as a teacher were in Nebraska, but since then he has worked in Iowa schools.
"I have a lot of experience in administration," said the 54-year-old. "When I saw this job, it caught my eye and I knew it was close."
His wife, Louise, is a teacher in Fredricksburg so he plans on commuting to Sacred Heart from Tripoli.
"I'm looking forward to administration again," said Ahrens. He noted, though, that the job will be a new experience. Until now he has worked for public schools.
"So that will be a little change for me, but I'm really excited about the opportunity," said Ahrens. "Other than you have to find different ways to get your money, I think we're all in the same business and that's educating students."
Niemeyer's new job in Jesup will also be a change. She has spent all of her 20-year career at Sacred Heart, as a teacher and a principal for the last nine years.
"That's a long time to be a principal in one building," she said. "I was ready for a change and for a challenge, because I'll have a lot to learn working in a small school in a rural community."
She said St. Athanasius has a kindergarten through eighth-grade enrollment of 113. Sacred Heart's K-8 enrollment is 281 and it also has a preschool.
Niemeyer said her longevity is not uncommon among Sacred Heart's teachers.
"There are a lot of folks on our staff that have been here a long time," she said. Of the school's 17 teachers, 10 have 15 or more years of experience.
"I think it's good for the administration, I think it's good for the school to have some change in leadership," she said.
One other Waterloo Catholic school, Columbus High, still has an opening at the top. A committee of the Cedar Valley Catholic Schools board has considered a number of applicants for the job, but has not found any good possibilities. Todd Dirth stepped down from being principal part way through the school year.
"They kind of had some focus groups and so far there hasn't been a candidate that fits," said Mary Beckey Kelley, the CVCS director of marketing. "We want the right person for Columbus."
She said officials are still aiming to find someone by the time school starts in the fall. "We are hopeful, we are trying to get somebody on board," said Kelley. John Carlucci, CEO of the school system, has been Columbus's acting principal.
In addition, CVCS has hired Mark McCright as media specialist and technology coordinator for Columbus and the school system's technology support consultant. The University of Northern Iowa graduate has 33 years of experience as a teacher and coach. The last six years McCright has served as technology director for the East Buchanan School District. His wife, Pat, is a registered nurse with Covenant Medical Center.
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