Fort Carson principal to take reins from Griff Smith at AMS |

Fort Carson principal to take reins from Griff Smith at AMS

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen School District has ended a nearly yearlong search for a new principal at Aspen Middle School.

Phyllis Wannemacher, principal at Carson Middle School in Fort Carson, Colo., will take the AMS reins before the start of the next school year, the district announced Monday. Wannemacher will replace Principal Griff Smith, a 30-year AMS veteran who is retiring at the end of June.

Smith announced his retirement early last year, but the district had problems finding a replacement. District officials had planned to hire a candidate before the start of this school year to help the new principal get a feel for the job while acting as “co-principal” during Smith’s last year. When the “help wanted” ads were not answered to the satisfaction of officials, the district employed a hiring firm to conduct a nationwide search.

The list was narrowed last month when four of the initial 25 candidates were invited for a tour of AMS and the community. District officials, including Superintendent Tom Farrell, interviewed the candidates, and a community hiring committee also met with the potential principals.

Though Smith did not serve on the hiring committee, he was given the opportunity to speak with the finalists last month. Smith said Wannemacher was his top choice for his replacement after their first interview.

“I interviewed all the candidates on the phone because I was out of the town [during the school visits], and she definitely was the person that I favored,” Smith said.

He said Wannemacher adequately expressed her interest in administering to kids during the sometimes difficult transition from elementary to high school.

“For me, it was her obvious penchant for the middle level,” Smith said. “It’s a unique time of life [for kids], and it needs a special person. She demonstrated to me an excellent grasp of middle-level pedology.”

Smith said he’s waiting to hear whether Wannemacher will make another visit to AMS before the end of the school year. As for Smith, he will remain as principal until June 28.

Wannemacher was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

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