Students react to new principal choice at Austin High

The School Yard

POSTED: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 10:39pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 9:22pm

There will be a new man on campus at Austin High School when students return from spring break.

Craig Kehrwald, a 28-year veteran in education, started as a teacher at Burges High School and went on to be a counselor, at-risk coordinator, assistant principal, before making his way up the ladder to become the El Paso I.S.D.'s current director of college and career readiness.

"I was just looking at the needs of the school and thought the skill set that I had fit Austin's needs and that's why I applied," he said. "It's such a proud school with a rich tradition and history that I just want to lead a school like that."

But he has some big shoes to fill.

The Board of Managers decided to begin the process to fire Austin's former principal Dr. John Tanner in December.

Tanner had faced termination for his alleged involvement in the district-wide cheating scandal earlier in the year after an audit was completed, but eventually was cleared of any wrong doing.

Then less than a year later, he was placed on leave again for a personnel matter. He's currently on paid administrative leave.

"I miss his jokes every Friday," said Austin High junior Marisa Santoya about Tanner, saying the campus isn't the same without him.

She hopes the new principal will get tough with students and address Austin's dropout rate of 4.2 percent, which is the highest of all high schools in the district and is above the state average.

"I have a lot of friends that have been dropping out, or they get pregnant and they drop out, and it's not so good for our school," she said.

But Kehrwald says he's not going to make any major changes right away.

"No specific programs right now. I need to get the input of the faculty students and community," he said.

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