Saline Schools: Mantha Named AD, Raft Moves into New Role, Stager Is Interim Princpal at SHS

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Saline Area Schools announced several key personnel changes.

Ashley Mantha, who taught physical education and health in Ann Arbor Public Schools, has been hired as the athletic director at Saline High School. Mantha, who golfed while studying at James Madison University, also coached the Skyline boys' golf team to a state championship in 2021 and was named Michigan Golf Coach of the Year. As reported last week, she'll be assisted by Jeff Pike who serves in a newly created assistant athletic director post.

Saline High School principal David Raft is moving into a new post - the principal of operations. Theresa Stager, in her sixth year as assistant principal, will serve as interim principal of Saline High School. 

Jay Grossman will replace Troy Wissink as director of technology on an interim basis. Grossman has been the district's systems administrator for two years. Wissink left Saline for a job at Huron Valley Schools.

The changes were announced to staff in an email yesterday and to the public in an email Friday afternoon.

The hiring of Mantha, Pike and athletics secretary Tiffani Harris means the SHS Athletic Department has returned to full staff. Mantha taught physical education and health at Tappan Middle School and Pioneer.  Mantha has a Bachelor's degree in Sports Management from James Madison University (Virginia) where she played Division 1 golf, a Bachelor’s degree in Education with a focus on Physical Education, Health, Business, and Technology from Nipissing University (Ontario), and a Master's degree in Educational Leadership from Memorial University (Newfoundland). In 2010, she launched the Skyline boys' and girls' golf programs and she coached the boys' team to the state championship in 2021.

Laatsch explained what made Mantha the best person for the job.

"Great coaches, make great teachers! We believe that Ashley's outstanding coaching resume, including a 2021 golf state championship and being named 2021 Michigan golf coach of the year, is going to translate into an outstanding Athletic Director who will help be a "coach" of our coaches," Laatsch said.

In addition, Laatsch said Mantha's beliefs around diversity, equity and inclusion reflect the goals of the district.

"Further, she has a great vision of the importance of including ALL students in athletics. And, with the district's emphasis on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, that was very important to us," Laatsch said.

Mantha's experience in an athletic department was also viewed as a plus, Laatsch said.

The community expected a new athletic director when Andrew Parrish resigned in November. What wasn't expected was Raft leaving the Saline High School post for the new principal of operations job. In the email to staff, Laatsch said the principal of operations will address capital projects, human resources, and daily operations.

Laatsch said other districts, including Dexter, have this position. Laatsch said the pandemic has created new needs at the administrative level.

"Our issue right now is that our administrators in all our buildings are constantly dealing with COVID-related protocols, procedures and the issues that are often connected with this, including staffing shortages," Laatsch said. "Principals are unable to do many of the important duties and responsibilities that they should be doing such as classroom student and teacher observations, counseling with students, and connecting with parent groups. David can be in all the buildings, with administrative experience at all levels, to help out whenever there is a need."

Laatsch said Raft was uniquely qualified for this position due to his experience in the district because he's served as principal at the elementary, middle and high school level.

"David will be in all of our school buildings on a regular basis helping our administrative teams and teaching teams address the challenges our students face during this Covid pandemic. The relationships that David has established with a wide variety of stakeholders over the years will be essential for his success in this role," Laatsch wrote in the email to staff.

Stager is in her sixth year as assistant principal at Saline High School, where her focus is curriculum and instruction. Laatsch said she has accepted the role of interim principal. He noted her experience as principal of St. Mary Catholic School in Rockford. The former music teacher is currently pursuing her doctorate in leadership and innovation from Arizona State University.

Stager will continue to have the support of assistant principals Joe Palka and Musetta Deneen. Laatsch said the three, with the support of Raft, will be able to handle the load. Raft, for example, will continue to handle the evaluations of some teachers. Pike, the assistant athletic director, will also pick up administrative duties, Laatsch said.

The school district will soon begin developing a process to hire a new principal for Saline High School. Laatsch said he didn't envision a national search.

"But we are certainly going to post the position and do extensive research on all the candidates that apply to select the best candidate that will best meet the needs of our students moving forward," Laatsch said.

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