Two CPS Principals to retire this year

February 24, 2019

It’s hard for Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz to watch extensive experience and talent walk out the door.

But, he said everyone has their time. Columbus High School Principal Steven Woodside and Centennial Elementary School Principal Jackie Herink will be retiring at the end of this school year. Both have spent the better part of their careers with the Columbus Public Schools District and reflect on the legacy they will leave behind.

Woodside grew up Cozad and started teaching current technology education after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The first two years of his career were spent in Elgin and then another eight in Lexington. In 1989, he started teaching at Columbus High School. He went on to serve as the school’s assistant principal for six years prior to taking on the role of school principal in 2009.

Woodside described working as a school administrator as a lifestyle, with most things in his life coming secondary to the job. Now, he’s reached a point where he would like to focus more on spending time with his family. He’s grateful for his wife sharing him with the job, but said the time has come to shift his priorities. Woodside is ready to take part in his next adventure as a grandfather come April.

“You’ve got to close one door before you open another. The opportunity presented itself and I just thought it was time for a change,” Woodside said of his coming retirement. “At some point you have to move on to the next point of your life, and that’s where I’m at right now.”

Herink said she wanted to pursue a career in education ever since high school. She grew up in Leigh and her first job after finishing college was teaching third grade and special education in Grand Island. From there, she went on to work as an elementary school counselor in Lincoln and then a school psychologist in Creston, Iowa.

In 2000, she began working as an elementary principal and special populations director in York where she focused on special education, English as a second language and high-ability learners programs. Five years later, Herink accepted the principal job at Centennial in order to live closer to her mother. Now after 14 years with the district, she said the time has come to retire.

“It feels like it’s time. People always say you’ll know when it’s time, and I feel like this is it,” Herink said. “As I look back it’s hard to believe that I’ve been an administrator for 19 years - that’s half of my career. That’s kind of hard to believe.”

In his nine years of serving as superintendent, Loeffelholz said Woodside and Herink have been the only building principals for CHS and CES. Speaking of Woodside, he said the principal embodies what it means to have school spirit and that it’s common for students to repeat his catchphrase: “Wear your maroon proudly and go Discoverers.”

“His leadership when it comes to moving that culture forward, just this passion for being a Columbus Discoverer,” Loeffelholz said. “It comes through everyday.”

Loeffelholz commended Herink as a stable influence at Centennial. As the school’s student population has grown and shrunk over the years, he said she’s been able to keep the staff together during turbulent times.

“She’s been very stable. That’s a new building that’s grown in population and dropped and grown,” Loeffelholz said. “She’s done a fabulous job of really keeping that staff together and making sure the culture within that building is all about the Centennial Stars.”

What Woodside said he’ll miss most about the job is the people, and all the lives he’s gotten a chance to be a part of in the three decades he’s been with the school district.

“The people and the interactions,” Woodside said. “That’s what makes it really hard, because that’s what it’s about. If you’re going to be in education, it’s about relationships.”

And Herink agrees with Woodside’s sentiments.

“Definitely the people. I’ll probably get teary-eyed talking about this, but this has been my home for 14 years. So even though I’m excited, I know at the end it will be very emotional,” Herink said. “With the kids, with the staff and being here for 14 year’s it’s been so nice to get to know kids and families and seeing all of their kids go through and move on to the middle school.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.