Tags: Featured Feature story, Geneva Lake West
June 05, 2012 | 01:18 PMFONTANA — Mark Wenzel resigned as Fontana Elementary School's administrator and principal May 23, but will return to teaching next fall.
"After several months of reflection and soul searching, I have made the decision to step down from the position of District Administrator/Principal of Fontana Elementary School as of June 20, 2012," Wenzel wrote in a May 14 letter to parents. "While I enjoyed the challenge of this position and the opportunity to work with students, parents and the faculty in a very different role, I discovered I truly miss teaching and the relationships formed within the classroom."
Prior to stepping into an administrative role, Wenzel taught music at the school for 26 years. He also taught for three years prior to coming to Fontana.
In the summer of 2007, Wenzel was hired as the school's principal. Prior to that he had been the Dean of Students and the music teacher.
"The Board of Education is grateful to Mark for his dedication and service to our school community in a variety of roles," School Board President Jennifer Keefe wrote in an e-mail. "We feel fortunate to be able to retain him in the role of general music/choral teacher. We are currently in the midst of searching for our next principal/administrator."
The school's music teacher resigned in March, and Wenzel said the school board was "nice enough" to place him back in that position.
"I feel like I do miss the classroom, and I feel fortunate that the board saw highly enough in me as a teacher to place me back in that position. They didn't have to do that," he said.
In September 2007, Tony Kujawa was hired as the school administrator, a position he held on a part-time basis. In January 2008, the School Board hired Wenzel to take over as the school's administrator, which he began that fall.
"I have been in this position five years already. I felt I gave it a good effort, I missed the classroom and the opportunity was there for me," Wenzel said. "I think you have to do what you think is best for yourself.
"The stress of the job is sometimes great, and I felt that at this time in my life this was the best decision for me."
During an interview Friday afternoon, Wenzel stressed that he was grateful for the opportunity to return to the classroom.
"I'm appreciative of the opportunity I was given, appreciative of the opportunity I'm going to be given and I'll be supportive of whatever the board decides regarding the next administration. I'll do whatever I can to support them."
After all, after spending 31 years at Fontana Elementary School, Wenzel said he wants to make sure he leaves the school in a better place than when he came. He said he fells he has done that with the administrator principal.
"I believe we started many good things here that will be easy for the next person to continue," Wenzel said. "I don't regret any of the decisions we made regarding changing in program. We look at data more than we ever have. The staff is more comfortable looking at and analyzing data and using it to guide their instruction. That is one of the things I probably feel the best about. We really got into looking at student test data and trying to make the best decisions we can for each students. That is probably the biggest defining moment, the biggest accomplishment."
School Board Vice President Joseph McHugh said the district is now searching for a candidate to serve both as the district's administrator and principal.
"We are looking for someone who can do both jobs effectively," McHugh said. "The two positions tend to require qualities that tend to be mutually exclusive. We are looking now for someone who can do both jobs."
Typically, an administrator works with budgetary issues, and a principal completes teacher evaluations and responds to student discipline issues.
"That is what we are fighting with, we can not afford to have an administrator and a principal," McHugh said. "We know one person doing both job is difficult and that is what we are trying to balance."
Wenzel said he dedicated a lot of time to both positions, but declined to discuss whether he thought it was appropriate for one person to hold both jobs.
"I think it is a complex position and it requires a lot of time. I did put in a lot of time, over the course of time," he said. "I just found it would have been better for me to make a life change. I worked hard at this job. I felt I had given it my best."
McHugh also praised Wenzel's job performance over the past five years.
"We were lucky to have Mark at the time," McHugh said. "The school has come a long way under his leadership. He has had that job longer than any of his predecessors going back several years. He has put into place a lot of great programs, and he has been a big proponent of professional learning communities with the teaching staff. I don't think anybody could have done better."