The 2020-21 school year is destined to be one for the books. As four administrators step up into new positions, and address the unknowns of the current pandemic, unforeseen state cut-backs, and the rollout of new construction. Superintendent Bridget Muse, who has been involved with the school district for nineteen years, has decided to retire, leaving her position to current principal, Jay Tapia, granting current vice-principal, Rick Kaufman, the title of principal, and moving current athletic director, Steve Longwell, into the vice-principal role.
Rick Kaufman did not originally apply for the position of principal, but with the strange circumstances due to COVID-19, Muse and Tapia decided it made the most sense for Kaufman to take over the position. Of course, there were interviews with other candidates and major discussion before this choice. “After meeting with all the groups involved with the interviews and discussing all the candidates, we could not agree with someone who we could move forward with at this time,” Tapia said. “Due in part to the circumstances with the quarantine, we felt that we did not want to reopen the search.”
Kaufman had been planning to retire after this school year, which would mark 37 years in education, but said he decided to stay due to the peculiar circumstances. “During this COVID season of our history, my goal of making things ‘better’ will be to provide the safest and most compliant leadership for our students, staff, and guests,” he said. “Academics will always be first and foremost and providing a safe environment allows for academic pursuits by students and staff to be achieved without concern.”
With so much happening in the world and in the community, the district needed to find someone they were comfortable with and someone who understood the district. Tapia explained how they were constantly looking for a principal who had a vision for the school’s future, knew the importance of academic growth, and understood the community’s values–characteristics that Kaufman has had for the last fifteen years that he spent gaining high school level administration experience.
Kaufman taking over as principal leaves the vice-principal position open. Because the district will be facing enormous cut-backs from the State, salary freezes and reduction in staff are two areas the district is looking at in order to save money. Athletic director Longwell has volunteered to combine his position as athletic director with vice-principal to alleviate the budget due to the enormous per-pupil funding cuts at the state level.
As Tapia passes the torch of his former position, said he is confident in Kaufman’s abilities. “I think Mr. Kaufman will bring a sense of calm and understanding. He knows the students, staff, and community. He knows the scope of the construction that will be impacting EHS,” he said. “Mr. Kaufman is dedicated to our school and our district. He thinks everything through before he acts. I am very excited for him to take the lead.”
Kaufman and Tapia are ready to take on their next adventure and both of them focus on the greatness of Eaton’s past as they embrace the future. “I am excited about leading students, staff, and the community in this upcoming transition period. Being mindful of the deep historical roots of the school and blending those roots into the rich, new future ahead as we move our address but not our hearts,” Kaufman said.