Longtime St. Maries High School principal John Cordell recently announced that this will be his last year with the district.
Mr. Cordell’s letter of resignation was accepted last week by the district’s school board. Mr. Cordell will be leaving the district after 23 years and has accepted a position as superintendent/principal in the Tekoa School District.
He said that stepping down from his position at SMHS was a tough decision to make.
“This whole thing, it truly comes with mixed emotions,” Mr. Cordell said. “It was tough to put in my resignation, the first sentence I wrote was that I am writing this with much sadness. I wasn’t looking to leave – I had been presented with some exciting possibilities in Tekoa.”
Mr. Cordell said that he was contacted by the superintendent of Freeman School District, Randy Russell, who told him what the Tekoa District was looking for. Mr. Cordell said that the district was looking to hire a superintendent/principal who would be able to create more connections between the community and the district.
The Tekoa District decided that Mr. Cordell was the man for the job.
“I’m looking to establish a stronger relation with the community,” Mr. Cordell said. “They wanted someone who could work on those connections and I was at the top of their list.”
The connection between community and school was also a top priority for Mr. Cordell over his more than two-decade run in the St. Maries School District. “One of my favorite things looking back is the St. Maries community, there are great kids here and the community really supports them and education,” Mr. Cordell said. “It's a great place to raise kids, that’s part of the reason why I came here, was to raise my family.”
Mr. Cordell said that he may have been one of the longest sitting principals in one school district in the state, saying that the average turnover is around five years. He said that he has had the joy of seeing different family generations pass through the school district over his time here.
“I’ve had many students who now have their kids in school – I think pretty fondly of that,” Mr. Cordell said.
Superintendent Alica Holthaus, said that Mr. Cordell will be greatly missed and that his knowledge of education laid a foundation for the high school.
“For one, Mr. Cordell has a lot of institutional knowledge – he knows what works and what doesn’t,” Ms. Holthaus said.
Though it will be hard to replace Mr. Cordell, Ms. Holthaus said that hiring a new principal could lead to some positive opportunities for the district.
“He will be darn hard to replace but change is often about perspective,” Ms. Holthaus said. “Having some fresh eyes and a different perspective could lead to some positive growth.”
Mr. Cordell’s last day in the district will be June 30, he starts in Tekoa July 1.
Mr. Cordell isn’t the only district principal to resign in the last few months, in fact all of the principals have either announced retirement or submitted their resignation. Ms. Holthaus said that though it is a tough situation it isn’t as uncommon as one would think.
“I don’t think this district has experienced anything like this recently, but it's not as uncommon as you would think,” Ms. Holthaus said. “When I was a principal in Grangeville something similar happened when I first started there. It’s a lot of change but I’m feeling good about the amount of applicants we have.”
Mr. Cordell will commute to his job, which means his wife, Danette, will continue in her role as the school district's business manager.