Apshawa Elementary School has a new principal

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:16

    WEST MILFORD-Apshawa Elementary School has a new principal, starting today, Oct. 1. Iris Wechling-Karnas takes over the 330 student school at 140 High Crest Drive from Dominick Silla who was principal since November, 2003. Silla becomes principal of an Elmwood Park school. The new principal was appointed by the board of education at its workshop meeting on Sept. 21. Until this week she was principal of the Clifton E. Lawrence School, 31 Ryan Road, Wantage. Earlier this week, Wechling-Karnas took time out from her transition efforts for an exclusive interview with The West Milford Messenger. THE MESSENGER: Please give me a brief history of your background, when and how your career started, how has it changed? WECHLING-KARNAS: I started teaching in Vernon in 1974. I was then a graduate of William Paterson University. I taught there (in Vernon) until 1980 when I had my first child. Became stay at home mom, but continued working teaching summer school in Vernon. Also involved in lots of community service, including the Boy and Girl Scouts and a dance group. I went back to teaching in 1993, then a few years later my principal encouraged me to return to school for my administrative degree, a masters in education from Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Then the district where I was a teacher hired me as building principal and I have been here 5 years. I was interested in working in a district with a larger administrative staff and forward think about what's best for kids and West Milford seems to be that kind of district. THE MESSENGER: How long have you been at Lawrence and in what positions? How old is the school? WECHLING-KARNAS: It was built in 1981, and has 570 students. I'm the sole administrator in the building, with 115 staff members, including 65 teachers. I was very involved with our special education population. It's provided me with intense experience. THE MESSENGER: the Lawrence School's website lists your web picks for internet links. Is this a concept you developed and will you implement it at Apshawa? WECHLING-KARNAS: I started those. The teachers and I coordinated reading motivation and math problem solving links. There's also a monthly problem that come ups for children and parents to work on at home. I think its an exciting opportunity to look into. THE MESSENGER: Are the responsibilities of a grammar school principal the same as they were, say 30 years ago? And tell us a little bit about those duties? WECHLING-KARNAS: I think the responsibilities have ratcheted up tremendously in that time and I know that much of it is accountability to ensure that kids get a great instructional experience. Standards now coming from the state and federal government with testing and no child left behind all filter down to the classroom. Some could say that‘s the responsibility of teachers, but as the instructional leader in the school I know I have a vested interest in making them successful. So it isn't just up to them, it's also up to me to make things happen. THE MESSENGER: As a "new broom," so to speak, what is some of the sweeping your likely to do? WECHLING-KARNAS: I think its' really important for me to know what's strong about the school and the first thing I want to do is find out from parents and teachers what they're most proud of and how I can support that work. I also have found it's very important and inspiring to ask people what else you would like to do and what else you'd like to do. What are your goals and dreams and how can we make them come true. I'm hoping to be able to spend more time with students and teachers than I am now. THE MESSENGER: People learn from their mistakes. What are some of the mistakes you made along the way? WECHLING-KARNAS: I don't look at life as a series of mistake or unfortunate activities. I look at everything as a learning experience. When I look at something that's not gone the way I wanted to I look at it and say "how can I make it better next time. " THE MESSENGER: In what direction do you see Apshawa school going in the years ahead? WECHLING-KARNAS: I don't until I know more about the school. It was easy here because I had taught here for six years before coming in as principal. THE MESSENGER: If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently? WECHLING-KARNAS: I don't think I'd do anything differently. I'm glad I mad the choice to stay home with my children, It was a great experience for them. A wealth of experience that makes me a better educator. I have a 24-year-old daughter who's a music teacher in Vermont., 24; a son, 22, who is going to Rutgers as history teacher, and my baby, 17, he's still