DELAVAN — Following an extensive search, the Delavan-Darien School District did not have to go far to find its next principal for Delavan-Darien High School.
Current Phoenix Middle School Associate Principal Jim Karedes will head across the middle and high school parking lots and take the reins at DDHS for the start of the 2016-17 school year. His hiring was unanimously approved by the school board on Monday, March 14, 2016.
Karedes will replace Mike Kolff, who was named the Interim DDHS Principal in January 2015 following the unexpected retirement of former DDHS Principal Mark Schmitt, Ed.D., who left mid-year for personal health reasons.
“I am excited about the challenges I will face next year,” Karedes said. “I’m looking forward to putting DDHS on the map when it comes to academic rigor and excellence. I am certainly going to miss the staff here at Phoenix, too. This school is headed in the right direction. We have the middle school programs and structures in place that will serve the high school well. I look forward to extending those similar types of programs and structures at the high school to continue improving educational opportunities there, too.
Karedes came to the district in 2013 as a seventh-grade math teacher at Phoenix Middle School. Members of the administration quickly discovered Karedes’ passion and talents for school administration and he became the school’s associate principal the next year.
“He has a real positive outlook and builds great connections with kids, parents and staff,” said Phoenix Middle School Principal Hank Schmelz. “He has high expectations for students and understands what it takes to build a better school.”
“Together, Jim and Hank have formed a great team and have made huge strides at Phoenix Middle School,” said Superintendent Robert Crist, Ed.D. “Our data shows students feel they have a safe and fun learning environment, and our middle school staff has been very impressed and pleased with the administrative team leading that building. I have been impressed with their work, too. I have no doubts that Jim will work just as well with the students, staff and administrators at DDHS and continue the positive atmosphere and accomplishments we’ve been seeing at our high school building.”
Karedes has more than 15 years teaching experience in Walworth County, and he is familiar with the area. He started his teaching career in 1998 at the Linn Joint 6 School District. He was primarily a math teacher for multiple middle school grades, but was also a district technology integrator and taught physical education, health, keyboarding and language arts at various grade levels. It was his only other district as a certified teacher prior to coming to Delavan-Darien in 2013.
At both Linn J6 and Delavan-Darien, Karedes was integral in installing new math curriculum. He was also an instructional coach for his colleagues as a team leader.
Outside of the classroom, Karedes was active in the youth coaching ranks. He was the varsity tennis coach for boys and girls at Big Foot High School, and volleyball coach for the Linn Joint 6 School District. He also has experience coaching boys and girls basketball at Wilmot Union High School and for Linn J6, and was a track and field coach for Linn J6. Collectively, he has coached youth sports for more than 40 seasons.
“With that background in athletics, Jim knows how to build a program and build on successes each year,” Schmelz said. “He knows that creating excellence is a process, and that it’s not a one-year thing. He understand that once you get good, you then try to get even better. Those are traits that are going to make him a good principal. He’s not complacent, and he is always looking to do things better than they were done before.”
Karedes earned his undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Health Education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. His Master’s degree in Educational Leadership is from Concordia University in Mequon.
“Jim’s leadership will be tough to replace at Phoenix Middle School, but I am thrilled he will remain a member of the district’s overall leadership team,” Crist said. “He has a passion for the district and an energy and expertise for school administration. He will do a great job leading DDHS, and he will be able to continue building the relationships with the students he knows from working at Phoenix Middle School.”
Karedes will also have the benefit of knowing and working with outgoing DDHS Principal Mike Kolff.
Kolff said he enjoyed his return and year-and-a-half stay at Delavan-Darien High School. He was an associate principal at DDHS in the early 2000s and was later a principal at Beloit Turner High School. He came out of retirement to lead DDHS on an interim basis and agreed to stay on a full year in 2015-16. He will now have the opportunity to return to his traveling and photography plans.
“Mr. Kolff came highly-recommended from our high school staff when the interim position opened up in early 2015. It was easy to see why,” Crist said. “Kolff didn’t just steady the ship after Principal Schmitt’s unexpected retirement. He showed strong leadership throughout his interim tenure there and I am greatly appreciative for all he has done for the school and our district. I wish him well as he returns to his retirement.”