Ames High School names interim principal after Valerie Nyberg was reassigned
Ames schools officials announced their plans for an interim high school principal Friday after the building's previous leader was reassigned this month for reasons that still have not been publicly disclosed.
The district named Steven Johns as the building's interim principal in an email to families and other community members Friday afternoon.
Johns, who earned his Bachelor's degree and Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, along with his Superintendent Endorsement, from Iowa State University, most recently served as the principal of Des Moines' East High School. According to a news release from the district, he would lead Ames High School for the rest of the current school year and all of the 2022-23 school year.
He'll also take the helm of a public school building that's been plagued by fights between students and staff this fall and as the building prepares to move into a new building that's under construction next door.
The proposal will be put before the Ames School Board on Monday for approval. District spokesperson Eric Smidt did not immediately disclose Johns' proposed salary Friday afternoon.
The building currently employs two associate principals, Kenneth Damron and Nicole Patton.
Its previous principal, Valerie Nyberg, was appointed to the post just 15 months before the district initiated an immediate leadership change earlier this month. Smidt said after the change that Nyberg was still employed by the district, but that "her continuing role with the district is yet to be determined."
District leaders, including Nyberg, had previously acknowledged to the Ames Tribune and to families of high school students that fights in the building have been a concerning problem this fall — with sometimes more than one fight happening a week.
Further, a video posted online around the time of her reassignment appeared to capture Nyberg being assaulted by someone in what appeared to be a hallway at Ames High, although district officials said they weren't aware of the exact circumstances surrounding the video.
Earlier this week, the district emailed high school families to inform them that a "hold-in-place" had been initiated at the school on Tuesday afternoon — although officials said students were asked to stay in their classrooms for approximately 20 minutes as a "proactive measure to minimize movement with the building in response to a student-behavior situation," and not as a result of a student fight, according to the message.
Ames Police Department Cmdr. Jason Tuttle told the Tribune Tuesday that officers had responded to an "out of control student" who had left the building before officers arrived.
More details about the interim principal
Johns has been in education for more than 30 years, most recently serving as Des Moines' East High principal for six years. That school serves approximately 2,200 students and is "one of the largest and most diverse secondary schools in Iowa," according to Ames' announcement Friday.
His career has also included three years with Heartland Area Education Agency, "where he facilitated services to four different school districts that included special education services and implementing professional development opportunities," according to the news release.
Johns has also served as high school principal for Williamsburg and Colo-NESCO.
According to Ames' news release, "With experience in high schools of varying sizes, Johns understands the challenges and benefits of implementing fundamental change within a secondary school. He noted that his goal is to 'inspire teams to build a cooperative environment and group synergy to achieve common goals.' "
Johns has two children and a grandchild and has qualified for the Boston Marathon "on numerous occasions," according to the news release. He's also a licensed commercial pilot.
Phillip Sitter covers education for the Ames Tribune, including Iowa State University and PreK-12 schools in Ames and elsewhere in Story County. Phillip can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is on Twitter @pslifeisabeauty.