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Two new assistant principals and two new district administrators also starting this school year.

INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - Juan Larios, pictured, is leaving his role as principal of Washington Elementary School. He is now principal of Woodburn High School's Academy of International Studies.Five Woodburn School District schools will have new principals or co-principals this school year, the district announced. That includes three high school principals, one elementary school principal and one elementary school co-principal.

The hires came as the result of three Woodburn School District principals leaving their positions following the end of the 2016-2017 school year. Irene Novichihin, formerly co-principal of Heritage Elementary School, retired after 31 years with the district; Victor Vergara, formerly of the Academy of International Studies, left for a position with Walla Walla Public Schools; and Eric Swenson, formerly principal of the Wellness, Business and Sports School, is still a Woodburn School District employee but now works as a program coordinator in the district office.

Additional vacancies arose when the district decided to hire current principals to fill some of the positions.

Juan Larios, who was Washington Elementary School's principal for seven years, is now the principal of AIS. Larios has also worked as the assistant principal at Heritage Elementary and as a dual language instructor.

"I am very excited and honored to be the new principal at AIS," Larios wrote in an email. "I personally had high school teachers who helped change my trajectory and I aspire to do the same for our students."

And Greg Baisch left his role as principal of the Woodburn Arts and Communications Academy to fill the co-principal vacancy at Heritage. Baisch was principal at WACA for four years, and has had other administrative roles at the district, including athletic director and assistant principal at Heritage.

"There was a ripple effect," said Casey Woolley, the district's director of human resources. "It made it a little more tricky, because every move had a tentacle in another building. In that respect it was kind of a unique year."

COURTESY: ALFREDO BELANGER - BelangerAlfredo Belanger is now principal at Washington Elementary School, filling the vacancy left by Larios. Belanger is new to the district. He most recently worked as assistant principal of Scott School, a K-8 school within Portland Public Schools that offers a Spanish immersion program. Before that, Belanger worked for the Tigard Tualatin School District as an ELL/Bilingual Teacher, Spanish teacher and AVID/Intercambio program manager.

"As someone new to Woodburn I am looking forward to getting to know everyone at Washington Elementary," Belanger wrote in an email. "Over the last couple of weeks, every person I have met, from parents to bus drivers to teachers, has been incredibly welcoming and passionate about providing the best possible education to our students."

COURTESY: DESIREE KIESEL - KieselAnd Desiree Kiesel is now principal at WACA, filling the vacancy left by Baisch. Kiesel most recently worked as an English Language Arts specialist at the Oregon Department of Education. Prior to that, she spent three years as the director of teaching and learning for secondary schools for the North Marion School District, and three years as vice principal at North Marion Middle School.

Kiesel is no stranger to the Woodburn School District, though. She worked there from 2003 to 2010 as a teacher/coach and teaching and learning facilitator.

"Being back here, with WACA students feels like home," Kiesel wrote in an email. "WACA has some amazing programs that foster and develop some amazing talents. I am very proud of the work they are already doing, and I am excited to see how we can leverage the talents and passions of our students to serve our community."

Joe Jensen is the new principal WeBSS, filling the vacancy left by Swenson. Jensen has worked for the school district since 2003, most recently as a teacher at the high school. He also serves as coordinator for the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs at the school district.

The district also hired two new assistant principals at Heritage and Washington.

Claudia Kis is now assistant principal at Washington. Kis has been with the Woodburn School District since 2005. She began her career as a third grade bilingual teacher. In 2008, she became an instructional coach for other teachers. Most recently, she has served as the new teacher mentor for the district.

And Teresa Alfaro is now the assistant principal at Heritage. Alfaro comes from the Salem-Keizer School District. She began her career there in 2004, working as an instructional assistant. She then became a bilingual/ESOL K-5 teacher, then worked as an English Language Acquisition Specialist and as the Bilingual Resources Program Associate.

The district also hired new personnel for the district office. That includes Swenson, who according to the district brings many years of administrative experience to his new role as program coordinator at the district office. He comes to this position after serving as an administrator in the district at all levels, most recently working for three years as principal of WeBSS.

And Cristina Chapman will serve as a Program Coordinator at the District Office. She started her career as an ESL and Spanish teacher before transitioning to administration. She has served as an elementary principal, Title III program coordinator, and most recently served as the federal programs coordinator for the Salem-Keizer School District.

Overall, Woolley said students, families and staff should be excited about the new hires. "I think they should be ecstatic," Woolley said. "They clearly share the vision and mission of district and are student-centered. All of them spoke highly of the importance of relationships with students and families."


Julia Comnes can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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