HOUGHTON - Houghton High School's new principal is coming from within the school.
The Houghton-Portage Township School District hired math teacher Julie Filpus as the new principal for a three-year rolling contract at its meeting Monday night. Filpus will also continue to coach varsity girls' basketball, which is renewed on a year-to-year basis.
Superintendent Doreen Klingbeil, who is also on the personnel committee, said Filpus stood out for her experience and decision-making ability.
"I think that she is a strong teacher in our district, and it's something she has been pursuing, and been interested in," she said. "Working with our student affairs position, she's had an opportunity to be in a position of working with our policies and working with administrators. I think that she's going to do an excellent job for us."
Filpus could not be reached for comment.
The board voted 5-1 to hire Filpus. Buck Foltz, Dan Crane, Bob Wheeler, Nels Christopherson and Mark Mohler voted in favor of hiring her; Crystal Verran voted against the hire, while Brad Baltensperger abstained.
A point of contention for some board members was their concern that Filpus would be spread too thin being an administrator and a coach.
Baltensperger said the district would need to identify metrics for her success, which he said would be measured less by specific instances than by her overall ability to coach without distracting from her role as academic leader.
"My concern has nothing to do with Julie, because I think she can do the job of ... principal very well," Baltensperger said. "She clearly can do the job of basketball coach very well, along with her administrative duties right now. Regardless of people's skill set, sometimes there are two jobs because two different people need to be doing those two different jobs."
While board members said they could revisit the arrangement at the end of the year, Verran said that might not provide an accurate reading of how it will affect the school long-term.
"If academics were to start to falter, we're not going to see that after a year ... it's not going to happen until later, if in fact it does," she said.
Foltz said he'd be leery of hiring new to the district in that arrangement, but that Filpus has experience and knows the culture of the school.
"I think if she's going to give up coaching as well, it'll come because she realizes she doesn't have the ability to put as much time into coaching as she wants," he said. "I think that's going to take her out of the coaching far quicker than anything else. I don't think she does things half-speed. I don't think Julie has another gear where it's like, 'OK, we'll go slow here for a while.'"
Wheeler said while he agrees with the administration-coaching divide as a general rule, he thinks Filpus has high enough standards for herself to notice any problems early.
"We wouldn't be able to measure it, but Doreen's going to know it, and Julie's going to know, and I think Julie would let the coaching slide before the academics," he said. "So I'd be comfortable with it at this point with Julie as the one individual that it would apply to."