As the year has drawn to a close, there have been several changes to the PHS faculty and administration, both temporary and permanent. Perhaps most notably, the Board of Education has extended Principal Gary Snyder a paid leave of absence from May 9 to the end of June.
Assistant Principal Lori Rotz has stepped in to temporarily perform his role, which at this time of year includes speaking at school events such as the Gold Key ceremony on June 2, Senior Awards on June 7, and the graduation ceremony on June 20.
Rotz has worked at PHS since 2007, a longer period of time than Assistant Principals Jared Warren and Jessica Baxter—and she has worked as an assistant principal for all nine years.
On May 18, Superintendent Stephen Cochrane sent an email to PHS parents about Snyder’s leave. “I am writing to make you aware that Principal Gary Snyder will be on leave through the remainder of this school year,” Cochrane wrote. “I have asked Ms. Lori Rotz to serve as Acting Principal in his stead, and I know that PHS will continue to thrive under her knowledgeable and caring leadership.”
Nevertheless, Snyder’s absence was not announced on the district or school website, and his Twitter feed has been silent since May 3.
Although his return has not been confirmed, according to the personnel addendum from the board’s meeting in May, Snyder’s contract has been renewed and he has been reappointed to remain principal next school year. However, there were four non-tenured teachers left off of the list of reappointments. According to the addendum, math teachers Brian Helverson, William Hackmeister, and Lisa de Coma as well as as science teacher Jaime Lynch will not be returning the following school year.Despite the minimal amount of information disclosed about the non-renewals, several community members, including eight students and science teacher Jim Smirk, spoke up in defense of Hackmeister at the board meeting on May 24. Many other students attended the meeting to voice support for Hackmeister, who is also an assistant coach on the track and field and cross country team. Annefleur Hartmanshenn ’17 presented a petition to the board with 305 signatures from PHS students acknowledging the good Hackmeister brought to the PHS community, which several girls track members passed around the school the prior week.
“As a community driven by strong discipline and love for what we do, we believe that the decision to let Mr. Hackmeister go is wrong,” the petition read. “Please take the time to recognize the poor decisions that have been made and how they have affected our district and community.”
“It’s a real injustice to have him taken from us as a team,” said track athlete Aidan Donahue ’16, who spoke at the meeting.
Donahue felt like the students have been kept in the dark about the administrative move and have no opportunity to voice requests. “I’ve seen it happen multiple times when … a lot of people have been protesting but nothing’s been changed, and it makes me feel as a student that I’m not really being represented.”
Immediately after the speeches given by PHS community members, the board voted to pass motion K1, which enacted all personnel decisions, including contract reappointments. All members of the board voted yes, except for Patrick Sullivan and Tom Hagedorn, who abstained.