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Faust Junior High principal retiring

replacement sought

June 25, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - The Chambersburg Area School District last week began advertising for a new principal at J. Frank Faust Junior High School to replace Rick Keller, who is retiring after more than 32 years in education, 16 of those years as principal at Faust.

The school board last week approved a retirement agreement with Keller, who said he told his staff on the last day of school that he would not return in 2006-07.

"I just felt it was time for me to move on to other things," said Keller, whose retirement is effective July 1. "I need time to hunt and fish and get away from the stress of 1,400 eighth- and ninth-graders."

"It's time for someone younger to take over ... because they are a handful," Keller, 58, said last week.

There have been stressful times at Faust, the most recent an incident in May when a group of about 15 white students wearing white T-shirts gathered at the bus ramp on a Friday morning in an apparent attempt to intimidate Hispanic students.

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Then, a rumor started, which proved false, that a student intended to bring a gun to school. The following Monday, about 300 students stayed home, Keller said.

There was another widely reported incident of racial animosity at Faust a few years ago involving white and black students, Keller said.

"Some days, when you're facing the racial crises we faced at Faust, it wasn't fun," Keller said. "The majority of kids are wonderful, but some kids are coming to school with issues."

"At the age of the kids at Faust, they're really on the fence, and they don't know which side to fall on," Keller said.

Keller has overseen two building projects and recent changes in curriculum, "and I'm proud of those things," but he said overcrowding remains a problem.

"Right now, we do not have the facilities to move any of those children" to other buildings, and there is little room to expand at the site, he said.

Keller said he felt no pressure from the administration to retire over the May incident, and had been in close contact with retiring Superintendent Edwin Sponseller and incoming superintendent Joseph Padasak about steps taken to ease tensions during that time.

Keller said his wife, Cindy, recently retired after 34 years, including 18 as the district's library supervisor.

Padasak said the school district will begin screening applications in mid-July. He met with Faust staff and faculty Monday to discuss filling the vacancy.

"We're certainly excited to see what direction the building will take under new direction," Padasak said.

The plan is to hire someone by the start of school, but an interim principal will be appointed, if necessary, Padasak said.

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