Mark Karmel officially starts as Lewis Cass Junior-Senior High School’s new principal today.
“I’m definitely looking forward to getting in contact with them and having a different role,” he said of students. “As a head principal I think you’re allowed a different attitude, can be more open with them.”
Up to now, Karmel has been the school’s assistant principal in charge of discipline. He’s taking the place of retiring principal Bill Isaacs.
“I’m excited about it,” Karmel said. “Bill Isaacs has been a great mentor over the last three years, as has Dr. [John] Bevan.”
He came to Southeastern School Corporation in 2009 with his wife, Melanie, and their two daughters, both of whom will attend Lewis Cass this fall. He’d spent the previous 15 years teaching history at Portage High School.
John Bevan, Southeastern superintendent, said Karmel’s twofold expertise will help Lewis Cass succeed over the next several years.
“The real strength is he’s a curriculum specialist with very strong technology skills,” Bevan said. “And as we move to a bring-your-own-device atmosphere next year, I think that’s very important.”
The two administrators are working together to help teachers integrate technology into their classrooms.
“As you start to bring computer capabilities on a huge scale into the curriculum, if all you do is do the same thing you’ve always done and add a computer to it, you’ve just added a very expensive pencil,” Bevan said.
From here on out, teachers are probably going to help students find information themselves, via computer technology, rather than handing it to them, Bevan said. “It’s a whole new technique,” he said.
Overall, Karmel is tasked with increasing the school’s test scores, helping staff members collaborate more on curriculum and homework assignments and expanding dual-credit options.
“The idea is that we want to increase student achievement and also get them ready for post-high-school decisions,” Karmel said.
And he wants to strengthen the sense of community among staff and students.
To that end, he plans to hold “stakeholders meetings” with students to ask them what they think about the school’s operations.
“Obviously student council will be part of these meetings, but I also want to tap kids who aren’t necessarily voted into those positions,” he said. “Really I want them to ask me questions. I mean, where would they like to go? It’s their school as well.”
Bevan said student “buy-in” on decisions rises when they feel like they’ve helped make them.
“If you can get them to buy into what you’re doing, that’s two-thirds of the battle,” Bevan said.
Karmel will also work with assistant principal Don Young to help new junior high students develop a sense of identity distinct from the high school students. Incoming assistant principal Nancy Franklin will take over Karmel’s old job.
Lewis Cass is already a good school, Karmel said, “so first thing is you don’t want to screw up the strengths. But you also want to find ways to move other things into the strengths column.”
• Sarah Einselen is a staff reporter for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.