Hal Huschka calling it quits after 18 years as SHJH principal

Sean C. Morgan

Sweet Home Junior High School Principal Hal Huschka is hanging it up after 18 years at the Junior High and 32 years in School District 55.

His last day will be June 25. Colleen Henry, a former junior high teacher who became Oak Heights Elementary principal this school year, will move to the junior high next school year.

Over the past two years, Supt. Don Schrader said, “I figured out he’s kind of a go-to guy.”

He has learned to seek Huschka’s advice on different issues, he said. He’s always a voice of reason.

“His teachers and kids love him,” Schrader said.

Huschka is an advocate for children, Schrader said. “Hal had a way with his teachers too. If there was disagreement, somehow they figured it all out. For me, just personally, he’s a great guy, and I wish he would stick around for awhile.”

“We came into the district at the same time, so we’ve known each other awhile,” said High School Principal Keith Winslow. “He’s a good friend and wonderful colleague. We think a lot alike, which is scary. He’s done wonderful things for the district and the kids of Sweet Home, making a stable place for years that’s fantastic for kids and for staff. The district will miss him, no doubt about it.”

Huschka, 55, never expected to spend his entire career in Sweet Home, but he came straight out of college and soon moved into administration.

He grew up in Portland, where his parents owned several hotels. He grew up working in the hotels.

“That’s helped me in this job,” he said. He learned at a young age how to handle confrontation. His father also was principal at Rex Putnam High School in north Clackamas, and he worked as a teacher and counselor.

Huschka graduated from Milwaukie High School. Huschka wasn’t sure what he wanted to do afterward.

He coached a YMCA basketball team in Eugene while attending the University of Oregon, he said. “That’s when the bug really hit, about my sophomore year.”

Huschka graduated from the UO in 1980 with a bachelor of science degree in elementary education. He completed his master’s degree in curriculum instruction in 1988.

“I applied in one place after graduation (in 1980), and that was Sweet Home,” Huschka said. “They hired me the day before school started. He (Harold Schollian) hired me for a one-year temp job.”

That one year at Holley Elementary School turned into a 32-year career. Hushcka spent nine years at Holley. He was head teacher there for six years and then worked as principal of Holley and Crawfordsville for one year.

Then-Supt. Bill Hampton moved Huschka to Foster, where he was principal for four years before moving to SHJH. He initially was co-principal there with Jan Sharp, who later became curriculum director and is now retired and serving on the School Board.

This is Huschka’s 18th year at the Junior High. He has hired everyone at the school except secretary Toy Royer, who has been there for 20 years.

He said he has enjoyed his time at the Junior High, overseeing a variety of changes.

“It was the feeling that I had started something. In the early years, it seems like I was part of change. I took ownership in the change.”

Among them, Michelle Peterson, a parent, was instrumental in starting the Tiger’s Den store, which is still going after 14 or 15 years. That program has been a great way for parents to be involved in the school without being intrusive.

The Tiger’s Den has paid for computers, remodeling, labs, sports and much more, Huschka said. It has purchased planners for every student, and it funds after-school programs.

Not only does the Junior High offer athletics, it offers non-athletes plenty of extra-curricular opportunities, with clubs in guitar, drama, reptiles and more.

Athletics were restored some 16 years ago after being cut during the 1980, Huschka said. The cost of the programs to the district are low – just coaching stipends. Most recently, Dave Goetz, former vice principal, did a “phenomenal” job of raising money to fund equipment, officials, uniforms and other expenses.

“I feel good about that,” Huschka said in regard to the minimal costs to the district.

More recently, the Junior High started the GEAR UP program to encourage students to go to college after high school.

The need really hit him when his son graduated, Huschka said. That year, only 11 Sweet Home students went on to four-year colleges. The GEAR UP program shows students that college is an attainable goal.

Coordinator Kristin Adams has been instrumental in getting the program off the ground.

Over the years, Huschka has worked with a number of vice principals, he said.

“That office has had a lot of different people. I think everybody who’s been in that office (except Goetz) is a principal somewhere else. That’s a job that should lead to another job.”

Goetz is serving as the district’s human resources, maintenance and transportation supervisor this year.

Everyone in that position has been high-quality, and that goes for several teachers who’ve gone into administration too, Huschka said. That includes the incoming principal, Henry, who was a teacher at the Junior High last year. She’s someone he hired right out of college.

Huschka said he will miss “the people, frankly.

“Most of the staff here has been here for a long, long time.”

And they come to school every day thinking about what’s good for the kids, he added.

Huschka plans to take the next six to 12 months off travel. He has a friend in Los Angeles he plans to “bum around” with. He also has real estate interests in Goldendale, Wash., and he will spending time there working on the rental properties.

His wife, Loanne will continue to work in the business office.

He plans to live in Sweet Home for awhile, he said.

“Sweet Home’s been very good to Loanne and I. We raised our kids here. It’s been a very good place to raise our kids.”

Their children include Alisha, who is attending the UO and studying education, and Taylor, who just graduated from the UO in public policy and planning.

“I had no intention of being here this long,” Huschka said. “I was afforded some opportunities, and it was a great place to have a career and raise a family.”