Two new principals have been selected in a school district poised for change.

The Stillwater Area Public Schools tapped Eric VanScoy, an assistant principal in the neighboring South Washington County School District, to lead Stillwater Junior High, and Stacey Benz, a dean of students for the Spring Lake Park Schools, to serve as principal of Marine and Withrow elementary schools.

Stillwater’s new superintendent, Denise Pontrelli, also hails from the Spring Lake Park district.

“I have always loved the Stillwater community, the strong history and the tradition of excellence in the schools,” Benz, 39, said in a district news release. “Having grown up in a small, tight-knit community, I am excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Withrow and Marine communities.”

VanScoy, 37, comes to the Stillwater district from Lake Middle School in Woodbury, and has experience as a band director for South Washington County schools.

“I have known many Stillwater educators and community members, all of whom are impressed with the way the schools honor their history while looking to the future,” he said.

Benz and VanScoy arrive as the district gets ready for major building projects and a reconfiguration of grade levels beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

Stillwater Area High School is being expanded to help make room for ninth-graders who are moving from the district’s current seventh through ninth grade junior highs. The junior highs, in turn, are being reconfigured into grades six to eight middle schools, and elementary schools will be revamped to serve preschool through fifth grade.

In a statement, Pontrelli said VanScoy and Benz have been through similar transitions.

“They both have great enthusiasm and energy, and will bring with them vast experiences that will help us plan and prepare for the 2017-18 school year and beyond,” he said.

This summer, architects have been working with district design teams on the high school expansion as well as plans for a new elementary school in the district’s southwest corner, which is where much of the future growth is expected to occur.

The district plans to seek bids for the projects this winter and begin construction in the spring.

Conceptual images are available on the district’s website at

District 833

Middle school girls attend workshops

Nearly 160 girls in the South Washington County district took part in workshops last month designed to help them think in new ways and empower them to create social change.

The sessions were held at each of the district’s four middle schools and run by four female students from Stanford University who call themselves “Girls Driving for a Difference.”

One member, Natalya Thakur, is a 2011 Woodbury High graduate. She said in a district news release that the team’s goal is for students to develop the skills needed to solve “any kind of problem” and to identify their leadership strengths and styles.

“We’re really trying to get them to be more confident in who they are and be able to articulate the things that matter the most to them, and what sort of social change do they want to make in the world,” Thakur said.

A video about the workshop can be seen on the district’s website at

Anthony Lonetree