Cheltenham High principal out after two years

Posted: July 30, 2014

After two years as principal of Cheltenham High School, Andrew Kuhn was recently assigned to the newly created job of "principal on special assignment." Evidently, he didn't like it very much, as he is taking a $25,000 pay cut to become principal of an elementary school near Reading.

Kuhn, 42, who was at the helm of Myers Elementary for three years before taking over the 1,450-student Cheltenham High School, could not be reached for comment.

He has been with the district since 2003, and was previously a social studies teacher and department chair at the high school, and also a K-6 summer school principal.

District officials gave no reason for making the change at the high school, which has lagged behind others in Montgomery County in academic performance.

Superintendent Natalie Thomas, who arrived in Cheltenham last year, said Monday that a new principal will be named for one year only. That person would become the third principal since Elliott Lewis resigned in 2011 after eight years. If another person is named to succeed the one-year leader, the school will have had five principals in six years.

Kuhn, she said, had been given a temporary special assignment and was to return to the high school in January.

While he has not yet tendered his resignation, she said, she is aware he is leaving.

She declined to comment on Kuhn's tenure at the high school, but later released a statement through communications director Susan O'Grady saying she appreciated his many contributions to the district and wished him well in his new position.

Cheltenham parents and students have been concerned since they received a June 17 letter from Thomas. It said Kuhn had been temporarily reassigned and would work on projects while based at the main administration building. The day-to-day operation of the school would be taken over by an acting principal, the letter said.

Some wondered if Kuhn was being pushed out and why the district would remove an accomplished educator after only two years on the job.

After Kuhn resigned, parents' e-mail boxes and online forums lit up, and at places like the Conklin Swimming Pool in Elkins Park, the principal's departure became a topic of unhappy conversation.

Several parents said they were upset - and their children brokenhearted - that Kuhn would be gone so quickly.

Cheltenham, which serves residents of an inner-ring suburb at the northern edge of Philadelphia who pay the highest school taxes in Montgomery County, has a strong academic tradition that has faced challenges in recent years.

Cheltenham High's 2012-13 state Department of Education School Performance Profile - a state system that measures achievement in a number of areas, including math, reading, science, and writing, among other things - was among the lowest for a public high school in the county.

Asked about academics, Thomas said: "We are continuing to look at proactive plans for improving all aspects of our programming."

Kuhn said in an interview in 2012 that he moved to the district because of its diversity. At the high school, he earned $130,202 in 2012-13. His new salary at Wyomissing Hills Elementary Center will be $105,000.

610-313-8232 @kathyboccella

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