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Seven of Kyrene School District’s 25 campuses will have new principals this year – as will its new Kyrene Digital Academy.

Calling all eight principals “Kyrene leaders on the rise,” the district said they are either principals transferring from another school or assistant principals taking their next step up the leadership ladder.

Here’s a rundown on the new leaders.


Dr. Kyle Ross

Kyrene Digital Academy


Kyrene’s new all-digital school will be led by Dr. Kyle Ross, former principal of Kyrene del Pueblo Middle School. 

Ross was in charge of outlining the district’s new all-online academy for the Governing Board over the last couple of months.

The academy features a curriculum developed by Kyrene educators and essentially mirroring the in-classroom curriculum and standards, he told the board.

Additionally, it puts Kyrene in a strategic position to grow enrollment since it is open to any student in Arizona who has a computer and internet access.

“Ross is well suited to lead the new Kyrene Digital Academy, having served as both a school administrator as well as a director of instructional technology in another school district,” Helm said, noting he has “been part of the design, professional development and implementation of various initiatives involving educational technology, including online and blended learning, STEM initiatives and Google Classroom.”

“I’m beyond excited to become the first principal of Kyrene Digital Academy,” said Ross. “KDA will be the first of its kind in Kyrene; a completely online K-8 school, with all the excellence of a Kyrene education.”

For more about the 26th Kyrene school:


Ashley Schutkowski

Pueblo Middle School


Replacing Ross as Pueblo’s principal is Ashley Schutkowski, who has served as the assistant principal and athletic director there for the last three years.

Schutkowski started her career in education 26 years ago in Kyrene, teaching math at Centennial Middle School. 

“She understands the complex needs of middle school students,” Helm said, “and is committed to not only supporting their academic success, but also their social and emotional growth.”

A Chandler native who attended Kyrene schools as a child, Schutkowski has twin daughters who also attended Kyrene schools.


James Martin

Centennial Middle School


Coming from his post as Altadeña Middle School Principal to become Centennial Middle School principal is James Martin.

Martin began his career in the district at Centennial as a physical education teacher and a coach. 

Helm described him as “passionate about meeting the complex needs of middle school students.”

“Throughout his career, he has helped create and lead a number of programs and initiatives designed to support students in their academic and social emotional growth,” she said of the Tempe native and father of three Kyrene students.


Ericka Modzelewski

Altadeña Middle School


Taking the helm at Altadeña will be Ericka Modzelewski, who had been assistant principal at Kyrene del Cielo, where she successfully launched the Watch D.O.G.S. program and the No Place for Hate anti-bullying campaign.

Watch D.O.G.S. – an acronym for “Dads of Great Students” – is an outreach of the Arkansas-based nonprofit, National Center for Fathering, founded in 1990 with the purpose of “turning the hearts of fathers to their children.” 

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead a middle school with a history of excellence,” Modzelewski told families in a YouTube video. “I have a deep respect for the transformative middle school years.”

Modzelewski has 16 years of experience in education and began her career as a sixth-grade language arts teacher. She has also served as an academic coach, a reading specialist and an instructional technology curriculum specialist.


Dr. Sarah Collins

Kyrene de las Manitas


Another Ahwatukee principal making a move is Dr. Sarah Collins, who will transfer from Kyrene de la Estrella to Kyrene de las Manitas. 

Helm describes the transfer as a homecoming for Collins, who began her career at Manitas as a teacher, 22 years ago. Since that time, she has served two school districts as both an educator and a school leader.

Not only is Collins an experienced Kyrene leader, but she is a former Kyrene student who grew up in Ahwatukee.

She also is married to a Kyrene teacher and has two children who also attended Kyrene schools. She said she is thrilled to be coming “home” to Manitas.


Jessey Johnson

Kyrene de la Estrella 


Families and staff at Kyrene de la Estrella will have a familiar face leading them into 2020-21 as Assistant Principal Jessey Johnson steps into the principal position. 

Johnson has devoted his entire 20-year career in education to Kyrene, starting as a math teacher and rising through the ranks to hold leadership positions at two middle schools as well as the district office before joining Estrella.

He is also a Kyrene parent, with one current and one former Kyrene student. "He is a passionate servant leader who works daily to ensure that teachers have the tools they need and that students of all abilities are included in authentic educational experiences,” Helm said.


Felicia Williams

Kyrene de los Lagos


With Dr. Ana Gomez del Castillo’s retirement last school year, Kyrene de los Lagos Dual Language Academy will see Felicia Williams step into that leadership position.

Williams most recently served as assistant principal at Kyrene Middle School, where she supervised the dual language program for all grade levels and led the school’s equity initiatives.

Williams served nine years as an elementary school principal in Maricopa.

 She said she “genuinely delights in serving students, parents and staff members on a daily basis.”

She is also a Kyrene parent with one current student and one who has moved on to high school.


Carolyn Payne

Kyrene de la Esperanza


The most recent addition to Kyrene’s principal ranks is Carolyn Payne, the newly-named principal of Kyrene de la Esperanza, pending Governing Board approval. 

Payne was offered the position after the recent retirement announcement of current Esperanza Principal Dr. Cheryl Greene.

Payne began her Kyrene career 17 years ago as a kindergarten teacher. She went on to be a literacy coach, a student advisor and, for the last six years, an assistant principal at Kyrene de la Mariposa.

 She is the mother of three former Kyrene kids and said she is “excited to become an Esperanza Shark in 2020-21.”

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