New principal moves in at Seeliger School | NevadaAppeal.com

New principal moves in at Seeliger School

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Kevin Clifford/Nevada Appeal Lee Conley, new principal of Seeliger Elementary School, poses on a U.S. map rug in the school library Thursday. He is leaving Empire Elementary School behind, where he was vice-principal for three years.

The story of how Lee Conley got started in the Carson City School District began some 12 years ago in his Wyoming hometown.

He and his dad climbed into their car and headed out to Ehrenberg, Ariz.

Ehrenberg, a small desert town along the Colorado River, was founded in 1863, and named after Herman Ehrenberg, a mining engineer murdered three years later in California. Its population was little more than 1,000.

Conley didn’t like Ehrenberg one bit.

“There is no way I can work here,” the then-23-year-old told his dad when they arrived.

Those were also the words he spoke to the school administrator who had come to interview him.

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“He said he had heard that before,” Conley said.

So the Conleys got back in their car and headed north, arriving about 2 a.m. in Carson City one day.

Conley had met then-associate superintendent Dr. Patty Hawkins at a job fair in Greeley, Colo. He waited for daylight to break to find her.

“She remembered who I was,” he said. “She said, ‘Lee, what are you doing here?'”

But there were no jobs available, and Conley headed home. A few days later, the district offered him a job, and Conley took it.

“I never thought I’d be here,” he said. “I always thought I’d end up in Wyoming.”

Conley, 35, has come a long way. On Aug. 2, he become principal of Seeliger Elementary School.

He is taking over for Laurel Terry, who has become the district’s English-as-a-second-language coordinator.

His with the district, Conley split his time between Empire and Mark Twain elementary schools as a physical education teacher.

The next year, he became the full-time P.E. teacher at Mark Twain. He then spent three years there teaching fourth grade and fifth grade for two years.

Three years ago, he was promoted to vice principal of Empire Elementary School, and under Principal Pat Carpenter’s encouragement, he learned the ropes. He said he is sad to leave a great staff behind, but happy to have the opportunity to move on.

Conley received his undergraduate degree in elementary education from the University of Wyoming, Laramie. In 1995, he completed a master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Nevada, Reno. He finished his master’s while working part-time at Nevada Fitness, doing course work at the desk late at night.

He lived in Carson City then, but moved to Reno six years ago. His lives with his wife, Victoria, off of Mount Rose Highway with their four horses, two dogs and guinea pigs.

He remembers many of his teachers and principals when he was growing up, including the fun ones and the mean ones.

“I never wanted to be that kind of (mean) teacher,” he said. “I wanted to show kids they could be safe and go to school and have fun.”

Conley is on the district’s truancy board and is vice president of the district’s administrators union. He hopes to remain a principal for about 10 years then is thinking of working on a doctorate and seeking a job on the district level or at a college.

Last week, he met with staff, arranged his office, and discovered he needs a pair of scissors at his desk. He’s officially on the clock today.

Getting Seeliger off of the No Child Left Behind watch list is one of his goals. He’ll work on increasing student attendance and helping children achieve higher test scores.

“I honestly believe this school can get off the watch list this year,” he said. “This is the first time Seeliger has been in this situation. I think it’s kind of a shock. It can be a good kind of shock.”

Through his entire education experience, Conley has been faithful to the district that chose him. The city that he visited on a road trip years ago is the one he returns to day after day.

“Quite honestly,” he said. “This school district has been so good to me and so supportive, I want to stay here.”

n Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.

At a glance

Seeliger

Elementary School

New principal: Lee Conley

• 35 years old, 10 years of experience in the school district

• Formerly vice principal of Empire Elementary School

Vice principal: Nancy Cauley

• Splits her time as a vice principal with Fremont Elementary School

• Will be starting off the Seeliger school year with Conley

First day of school:

• Aug. 24, including middle and high schools