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Carlisle stepping down as principal at MHS

Kelly Carlisle, who's been at MHS for 22 years, said he's pursuing personal growth

Milwaukie High School Principal Kelly Carlisle will be leaving Milwaukie High at the end of the school year.

'It's been on my mind for some months now, probably since January,' Carlisle said last week.

Carlisle, who's been at Milwaukie High for 22 years in various positions, including principal for the last three years, assistant principal for a few years before that, and then as a teacher, said he was moving on to foster his own personal 'growth and my own needs, et cetera.'

He said he wants to continue working as a school administrator, and would consider staying in the school district or leaving it, depending on what opportunities become available to him.

'I absolutely love education leadership and I think I'm growing and moving in directions where I'd like to continue that,' he said.

School District Superintendent Ron Naso said Carlisle has had a great impact on the school.

'I think over the years his impact at the school has been an extremely positive one,' said Naso. 'Kelly is a very fine gentleman and he's always had the best interests of Milwaukie High School at heart.'

Naso said he would be meeting with Carlisle this week to discuss possibilities of Carlisle staying in the district.

'That's certainly a good portion of the agenda of the meeting, is to talk about future roles in the school district and what he's looking at,' Naso said.

Carlisle said it would be strange to leave, but that Milwaukie High holds a unique position in the community and he's cherished his time there.

'After 22 years in the same building this is kind of weird, I'm not sure my car's going to know where to go,' he said. 'I'm looking at two t-shirts hanging on my wall that have numbers on them, they are the number of cans the students donated … When you think about the school doing something like that, that's significant … I am extremely proud of the presence of Milwaukie High in this community. A lot of people have great affinity for their time here, either as students or staff … Mostly there's just tremendous heart here.'

Teachers said they would miss Carlisle, regarding him as a very approachable, consensus-building leader.

'He's been a real positive influence,' said MHS teacher Chuck Nott. 'In fact, even way back when he was music director … he was highly thought of. Kelly's knowledge of the traditions of Milwaukie High School and the inner workings of it are certainly going to be hard to replace.'

Another teacher and personal friend of Carlisle's, Marty Wilkins, agreed.

'I think it would be very easy to just go up and talk to him, if you have a concern you can talk to him about it without worrying about getting raked over the coals,' Wilkins said. 'I think he does demonstrate that he values both teachers and students … I'm sad to see him go.'

Naso said the school district would first look at current school district staff to see if anyone could take over the role, but would also consider hiring from outside. He also said Milwaukie has some unique challenges right now that will require specific leadership skills.

'I think any transition, particularly of a building principal, is a anxious time for a community, and this certainly is perhaps more significant in that we're talking about someone who's been a principal for 3 [years], an assistant for 2 or 3, and a teacher for many years before that,' he said.

'I think under the circumstances probably one of the critical traits that we have to have is someone who is comfortable working with parents, students, teachers, to bring them together,' he said. 'One of the issues that we do have is one of some disjointedness. I think we need someone who has some particular skills in that area.'

'The other thing I think we need in a principal is one who has expectations of achievement, i.e. his or her own achievement, and that of students.'

Nott and Wilkins said Carlisle had those skills, and it will be challenging to replace them.

'Kelly really does understand this community very well, he has a real good understanding and a really good pulse for the community and understands how to make things work here at the high school,' said Nott.

'I think the biggest, it's hard, it just right now it feels like a big void,' Wilkins said. 'I think the biggest thing that the school will need at this point, we'll need to have somebody that is able to come, be positive, be direct with the staff and just willing to kind of take some things on, be able to listen to the staff and make a decision yes or no.'