June 15, 2005 - The Marana Unified School District is getting a few new faces starting July 1, including a new superintendent, a new principal at Mountain View High School and a new principal at DeGrazia Elementary School.

Incoming Superintendent Denny Dearden, who was chosen by the district's governing board in March to take the helm of the 13,000-student district, visited Marana last week to meet with district staff members and interview two finalists for the Mountain View principalship.

As a result, Dearden recommended the hiring of Jill Atlas, whose appointment was expected to receive approval from the district's governing board June 14. She will receive an annual salary of $79,345, said district spokeswoman Tamara Crawley.

"We had a thorough screening and interview process," Crawley said. "We're very pleased the hiring for Mountain View was done in such a timely fashion."

Atlas, currently an associate principal at Mountain View, replaces Richard Faidley, who resigned last month to take a district-level position with Amphitheater Public Schools.

Atlas has been an administrator at Mountain View since 1998, when the district first hired her as an associate principal. She has been heavily involved with the school's shift toward "smaller learning communities," which will radically change the high school into a system of different career academies in the coming years.

Atlas also has 20 years of experience in the Tucson Unified School District as an educator, athletic director and associate principal at Santa Rita High School. She has a master's degree in educational leadership from the University of Arizona.

New to the district beginning July 1 will be Stephen Poling, who will assume duties as principal at DeGrazia Elementary School. Following a meeting last month at which the district's governing board approved hiring him, Poling said he plans to be a uniter and bring DeGrazia staff members together as a team.

"The people are so welcoming and friendly. I'm very much looking forward to being there," he said, adding that he has brought on a new secretary and an assistant to the principal. "I've been there a couple of times this month and had to do a couple hirings, but I'm mostly gearing for July 1 to be there full time."

Poling has four years of experience in school administration with Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District 35 in Rio Rico. There, he served two years as principal of Mountain View Elementary School and two years as the assistant principal of Calabasas Middle School.

Prior to his experience with Santa Cruz Valley, Poling was a middle school teacher for six years. He has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in history and secondary education.

Dearden also will start July 1 with his first few days geared toward orienting him with the large district, which has 17 schools scattered across 550 square miles. He spent May 10 conducting onsite visits and engaged in a "get acquainted" meeting with district officials, Crawley said.

"He had the opportunity to meet with administrators today and do some additional site visits," she said. "He's very enthusiastic and excited to be joining Marana. Today he shared that enthusiasm in a very visionary and empowering meeting with administration."

Crawley said Dearden has emphasized the importance of teamwork and putting students above all priorities. Dearden currently is assistant superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools in Fairfax, Va., where he oversees a cluster of 22 schools and nearly 20,000 students. He was one of three finalists to visit the district in March and interview with board members.

"His first days will be spent in relationship building and assessing programs and departments and becoming acquainted with operations," Crawley said, "looking at a strategic plan, team building and ensuring the district is looking ahead to growth in the district."

To provide consistency while Dearden makes the cross-country transition, Crawley said Jan Truitt will remain interim associate superintendent throughout next year. Jim Doty also will continue filling Truitt's shoes as interim principal at Marana High School.

Julia Barwell, whose removal from her position as DeGrazia's principal sparked some controversy in March, returns June 15 to a new district-level position as director of special projects, retaining her old salary of $62,628.

Barwell and three other DeGrazia employees were indicted earlier in the school year for failing to immediately report a kindergartner's claims that her father sexually abused her. All four employees were granted diversion agreements with charges dropped as long as they completed training courses on the state's mandatory reporting laws.

"We've been informed that she's in the very final stages of resolution and, given the information from our legal attorneys and communication with Ms. Barwell, the timing is perfect," Crawley said. "Everyone is on-board and up and running for next year."

Interim Superintendent Jane Pryne will be leaving the district at the end of June and plans to teach part time at Northern Arizona University.

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