started classes Wednesday with yet another new principal. Ting Hsu Engelman is the fifth administrator to lead Piedmont's alternative school since it was founded 12 years ago.
On July 29, former principal Karen Gnusti sent out an email to MHS families to say that she had unexpectedly received an offer she couldn't refuse for a job as principal at Ocean Shore High School in Pacifica where she lives.
Engelman quickly stepped up to take Gnusti's spot, even though she to take on a vice principal role next door at Piedmont High School, where she's worked as a counselor since 2004.
"PHS is going out for a new assistant principal in deference to this really being Ting's calling," said Superintendent Connie Hubbard. Engelman will still be taking on duties as the high school's Wellness Center director.
At MHS, which has only about 80 students, every kid interacts with the principal who works in concert with teachers and counselors to manage their education. Engelman has made a good first impression on the student body with her enthusiasm.
"She helped me with my schedule, and that's not something that you expect a principal to do," said junior Madeline Appel.
"We're looking forward to being able to have her for a couple of years," said Anujin Enkh-Amgalan, also a junior. "This is my third principal in three years."
Superintendent Hubbard admits that, while it's not uncommon elsewhere, that kind of turnover is a lot for Piedmont. But she said each new principal has moved the school forward, noting that all but one has been an internal hire.
"We didn't want to lose time on people learning the culture, the relationship with [PHS], knowing the kids." In handing off the reins to Engelman, she said, "it wasn't a clean-up job."
But, according to Richard Meyers, who's in his 11th year of teaching math at MHS, "it's been bumpy."
Michael Brady, who's now an assistant superintendent in Piedmont, was brought in as MHS principal in 2003, replacing founding principal Kenneth Yale. Meyers said Brady did tighten up the administration of the school, but since he was new to the district it took him a year to get to know MHS. By the middle of his second year Brady knew he would be switching over to be principal at Piedmont Adult School.
Jamie Adams took over at the start of the 2005-2006 school year and proceeded to ratchet up the curriculum over the next four years as more students wanting to go to four-year colleges enrolled at MHS.
Gnusti jumped in mid-year after Adams tendered her resignation in October 2009. Then during the 2010-2011 school year she oversaw the enrollment of a noticeable number of new students, a move to a new site, and the implementation of the Infinite Campus student data system.
"Last year was probably our least cohesive year," Meyers said.
Gnusti was, "just trying to keep it together."
The students took notice, complaining of cliquishness in what was intended to be a close-knit educational community built on a philosophy of mutual respect and support. Gnusti, they said, didn't do much to bring MHS back together.
"It seemed like she was in her office a lot," said senior Arylss Hewitt.
Hewitt's heard positive reviews of Engelman from friends with whom she worked as a counselor. She's optimistic the new principal will help make MHS more like a family again.
"We have someone who I know can do a good job," she said.