When the Wilton High School Class of 2021 graduates this June, they’ll be accompanied by one long-time member of the faculty who is also leaving the school and “graduating.” Donald Schels, who started as a teacher and rose through the administrative ranks to become WHS associate principal, has been named the new principal of Shepaug Valley School effective July 1, 2021.
Shepaug Valley School is a regional school that serves students in grades 6-12 from the towns of Bridgewater, Roxbury, and Washington, CT.
Schels told his colleagues in an email informing them about his career move that leaving WHS was a hard decision. He added that he was not conducting a job search when the opportunity to become a principal arose.
“Being a teacher at WHS was the best job I ever had, and being associate principal the second best. Sometimes growth requires surrendering the familiarity of the status quo, with all its supports and safety nets,” he added.
Schels was first hired as a social studies teacher at Wilton High School in 2005, later becoming the school’s assistant principal in 2013 and associate principal in 2016.
He is currently pursuing his Ph.D at Fordham University, researching how competition in school affects student performance and student wellness.
Wilton School District officials said that “Schels was known for his ability to inspire and develop connections with students and staff during his tenure at Wilton High School.”
As a teacher, the graduating classes of 2007 and 2013 selected him to be the commencement speaker at their graduation ceremonies. As an administrator, Schels helped lead numerous initiatives, including the development of the new block schedule, the Performance Assessment Design Initiative (PADI), and curriculum mapping.
Before becoming an educator, Schels was an attorney in New Jersey. During his time in Connecticut he combined his legal and educational professions as a teaching methods and school law instructor for the State of Connecticut for more than 20 years.
According to Maria Coleman, the district’s Director of Human Resources and General Administration, the vacancy created by Schels’ departure will be posted this week and the district will begin an extensive search for a new associate principal.