When Rick Ellis was growing up in Oregon, he was voted Most Friendly and Most Supportive in high school. The former student body president was “all about the clubs,” he said.
Duncan High School students can expect to see that same sense of fun when they return to school and find Ellis sitting in the principal’s chair.
Duncan Unified School District Superintendent Eldon Merrell decided after three years it was time to give up two of his many hats — those of high school principal and athletic director. Ellis began his new job July 1.
Ellis, 54, grew up knowing he wanted to coach and be an athletic director.
The University of Oregon graduate spent 15 years at Mountain View High School in Tucson, where he spent time as a health teacher, multi-sport coach and assistant principal.
He’s spent the last 7 1/2 years as the assistant principal at Desert Rose Academy in Tucson.
While at Mountain View and Desert Rose, he crossed paths with Duncan Elementary Principal Steve Korzan and when Korzan mentioned Merrell wanted to focus on his superintendent duties, Ellis leapt at the chance to chat with him about the position.
“I got a really good vibe talking to him and I think the time was just right in my career to make the move,” Ellis said.
Unable to find a place to live, Ellis bought a travel trailer and is leasing the land upon which it stands. For now, the plan is for him to live in Duncan during the week and spend the weekends with his wife, Julie, in Tucson.
Julie works for the Arizona Department of Education. The couple has six grown kids and one grandchild.
Ellis has no plans to make “whole sale changes,” he said. He intends to spend some time getting to know the “passion and energy” of the school and “tinker” when necessary.
“My main concern is what’s going to bring a kid to school?” Ellis said.
While obviously academics are important, Ellis said it’s important for school to be a place where kids can feel safe, have fun and make connections.
“I want to get kids excited about coming to school,” he said.
Toward that end, Ellis said he’d like to see if he can get more kids to participate in sports and possibly add more sports, especially at the junior varsity level.
He’s met most of his staff already and is quite impressed with them and the town, he said.
“I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the place already,” Ellis said.
Ellis, who gets to work shortly after 5 a.m. everyday, can’t wait for school to start next month.
“No one is going to out energize me,” Ellis said. “I love life, being loud and obnoxious and having fun.”
Make no mistake though, students who act up can expect to pay the consequences, he said.
“I always tell kids, though, that if they make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. They just need to learn from it,” Ellis said. “Once they’ve faced the consequences, we don’t hold it against them.”
Merrell said he, too, is excited for the school year to begin.
“Rick has some strengths I don’t have,” Merrell said. “I think he’s going to be good for our school.”