New principal looks forward to job in Cape

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Cape Girardeau's new middle school principal grew up in Jackson. He still lives there. But Mark Kiehne said Tuesday he won't have any trouble donning the orange and black school colors of Jackson's rival.

"I am really looking forward to it," the 31-year-old Kiehne said Tuesday, a day after the Cape Girardeau school board hired him to run Central Middle School.

Kiehne is finishing his third year as principal of the middle school in the Kelly School District at Benton, Mo. He previously taught sixth-grade math for six years at the Jackson Middle School.

"My entire career has been in middle school. I just love that age group of kids," he said, adding "It excites me to see kids with that much energy."

Kiehne said he considers himself a disciplinarian but also a principal who can relate to the students. "I want it to be a fun atmosphere," he said.

Still, he said, school administrators must set clear expectations for students.

"I am going to work hard, be fair and be consistent," he said.

Don Moore, superintendent of the Kelly School District, said Kiehne has done a good job as principal.

"He is intelligent, and he has the integrity to do the job right," Moore said.

Kiehne will finish his duties with the Kelly School District by the end of June. He expects to start at Central Middle School in July.

He replaces principal Frank Ellis. The Cape Girardeau school board, acting upon the recommendation of superintendent Dr. David Scala, voted in April to replace principal Frank Ellis and assistant principal Debbie Followell at the end of the current school year.

School officials have declined to discuss the reasons for seeking new leadership at the middle school.

But in a Dec. 7 letter to Ellis, Scala and assistant superintendent Pat Fanger cited five main problems: poor communication with teachers and parents, inconsistent discipline, lack of instructional leadership, failure to address assistant principal issues and failure to perform principal duties such as parent/teacher conferences.

The Southeast Missourian received the letter anonymously.

The departure of Ellis and Followell prompted outrage from supporters of the two administrators. Students even held a rally in support of Ellis.

The school board hired Kiehne upon Scala's recommendation in a closed-door meeting. The superintendent said Kiehne has "excellent leadership skills."

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