CHS principal: First year won’t be tidal wave of changes

Carson High School Principal Dan Carstens comes from Kodiak, Alaska.

Carson High School Principal Dan Carstens comes from Kodiak, Alaska.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

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Dan Carstens, Carson High School’s new principal, can tell how personal the campus and its programs are to residents from the inside out.

In the short time he’s watched the exterior change from its shades of copper and tan to align with the Senators’ brand of royal blue, gray and white, he’s been taking in the pride families have in their flagship school on Saliman Road. Carstens succeeds Bob Chambers, who has taken a new position in the Carson City School District as director of Adult and Correctional Education.

“I’ve been learning there’s a lot of people who grew up here and are teaching here and are coaching here and are retired from here and in a community from here,” Carstens said. “And so this place, it’s just a very personal thing.”

Born and raised in Kodiak, Alaska, Carstens enjoyed the island’s outdoors environment for nearly 47 years. He worked in the same school as an administrator, an assistant principal and principal. He and his wife will celebrate their 29th anniversary this month and have five children – one of whom recently graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno – and four grandchildren.

“Basically, 47 winters (in Alaska) — I think I hit my quota,” he said, laughing. “After I got 25 years in education in Alaska, my wife and I looked to relocate and come down and see what else the world has to offer. We ended up in Utah.”

They might have come a little sooner but if they were going to travel 2,500 miles to the continental United States, “you really want to know where you’re going” and he said some jobs didn’t open up until later. But at Bear River Middle School in Garland, Utah, where there were between 850 to 900 eighth and ninth graders, he found his passion for an older student population.

It was a great start and it helped him to work out how to apply what he had learned previously as a combined middle and high school administrator, Carstens said. He began looking for jobs in Nevada, specifically in Carson City, which offered something a little different — and smaller — than Reno.

“It’s out of the hustle and bustle of the Reno area,” he said. “I’m not exactly the big city guy, but it’s nice to have access to it. I like to go out of my backyard or drive a little bit and be in the wilderness. When you look at stuff like that, Carson City has a lot of that to offer.”

Carstens said it’s his goal not to replace what’s special about the academic, athletic and community foundation. He quickly got to work meeting with employees and figuring out what’s important to them.

“You always look for themes, and I gave our staff a survey to talk about what should we keep doing and what we should stop doing and what should we start doing, what are our challenges, what are they proud of here, their professional challenges,” Carstens said. “There are some themes in there. And I don’t know if there’s one thing that, if we don’t tackle it, then we’re going to fall apart.

“But what I do know is to look at our systems in place — is it the best we can do for kids and can we do better with these systems and do we need to scrap it and start over? So that is the main goal. Any time you have somebody come in and say, ‘I know what we’re going to do, guys, this is what we’re going to do,’ without building relationships, that’s step number one to getting run out of town.”

Carstens said he wants to build on what has been done and perhaps bring new ideas to the table.

“It’s not going to be a tidal wave,” he said. “It’s the rising of the tide and hopefully we can all rise with that tide and get up to that next level.”

Carstens also likes to wear goofy socks to work as a quirky, personal way to connect with students.

“I have a whole drawer full of different socks at home, which, after about a month or so at home, I’ll have to start rewearing them, after I wash them, of course,” he said.

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