Principal Howard Bennett's unexpected retirement left Whittell High School in desperate need of a replacement - and fast.
With less than three months to fill the position, the Douglas County School District looked to an old friend.
Dick Brownfield, who was head honcho at Whittell from 1975 to 1991, is returning in the fall as interim principal. He will be the fourth principal at Whittell in five years.
"When Howard retired, he didn't make that decision until the middle of June, after graduation, so we were concerned about the timing because it's very hard to recruit people at that time of year," Superintendent Pendery Clark said. "We did decide we would go ahead and advertise the position and see if we could find any qualified applicants."
With little response to the advertisement, Clark and the Board of Trustees had to act quickly.
Brownfield, who is planning to retire after the school year, was offered the position while the district searches for a permanent replacement.
"I thought of Mr. Brownfield because he had been there before and he's always been so committed to Whittell," Clark said. "He spent 16 years as principal at Whittell and he's been in the district for 34 years. He started out as a teacher at Whittell and then he became the principal at Zephyr Cove Elementary School, before he was principal at Whittell. So he has a long history at the lake."
George Echan, the school board's only member from the lake, offered a reason for Whittell's high turnover rate.
"I think there are causes independent of the location itself in each of those incidences," he said. "In the case of Howard, it was his health. In the case of Mr. (Larry) Snyder, I think it was determined that he would be happier in a different position in the district. I certainly am committed to getting a principal who will stay a long time at Whittell. No one is happy with the turnover. This community really deserves stability at the high school level."
Clark also commented on the come-and-go administration at Whittell and said the district is looking for someone who will break the pattern.
"I just have to say that Mr. Bennett's decision to retire was a total surprise," she said. "When he was selected for that position he had indicated that he would be there for at least three years. We were just very sorry to see him go, because he did such a wonderful job."
Brownfield said he is excited about returning to the familiar halls.
"I've always felt that George Whittell High School has a great deal of pride and I always was very proud of the students' achievements, whether it be academic or extracurricular. We have an excellent staff and they provide the students with the educational background they need to be successful, whether it be college, trade school or going into the world of work."
Echan said he is pleased Brownfield took the job.
"Under the circumstances, I am really delighted that Dick Brownfield has agreed to take the interim principal position for the year," he said. "He knows the teachers and has proven himself to be effective with the community as well, and if you have to have a temporary fill, we couldn't ask for a better one."
Brownfield, who left his position as principal at Gardnerville Elementary School to spend his last year at Whittell, was unanimously voted in by the board.
"I was very pleased to be able to recommend him to the board as an interim appointment for the next year," Clark said. "I think it's the perfect solution to a challenging situation."
Brownfield is being replaced at Gardnerville Elementary by Cissy Tucker.