Phyllis Kohel, whos erved as the principal of Milford High School for 10 years, has accepted the superintendent's job at the Woodbridge School District.
Phyllis Kohel has been part of the Milford School District for decades. Teacher, guidance counselor, athletic director, principal — she’s worn more than half a dozen hats at Milford High School alone.
That lengthy legacy will come to an end after this month.
Kohel, who’s spent the last year as Milford’s director of student support, announced this week she will leave at the end of June to take over as superintendent for the Woodbridge School District.
“It’s a very emotional choice for me,” she said. “I’ve spent my entire career in the Milford school district. My kids have gone through here, my grandchildren are going through the system. It was really a difficult decision.”
She’s heading from one growing school district into another. Just as Milford is finishing its latest round of construction, Woodbridge is getting ready to start one up. The district passed a referendum to build a new high school this spring.
“I think what really convinced me to apply for it is that Woodbridge is not completely different from Milford,” Kohel said. “It’s a small district and they struggle with the same subgroups that we struggle with, through No Child Left Behind and the like. It’s not like I’ll be going into something brand new.”
It’ll be the first time in more than two decades that the Milford School District has been without Kohel.
“We’re very excited that Phyllis has this opportunity, and it also shows that we grow exemplary leaders in this district — we’re very proud of that,” Superintendent Sharon Kanter said. “She’s going to do a great job there, and we’ll be very lucky to have her as a neighbor.”
In fact, it will be Kohel’s first education job outside of Milford. She started at MHS as a teacher’s assistant before she even finished college, came back with a degree to teach reading and gradually climbed the ladder to guidance counselor, athletic director and assistant principal before spending 10 years in the principal’s office.
“I’m just going to miss the district,” she said. “I love this district. The teachers have been phenomenal. In my educational path, I’ve had unbelievable support from teachers here, and that’s what’s guided me to where I am now.”
She said her first few months on the job at Woodbridge would be focused on learning the district’s strengths and weaknesses, and working with the staff that’s already there.
“I don’t have any plans of going into Woodbridge with major changes in mind,” she said. “I think that would be unfair to all the work that they’ve done prior to a new superintendent coming on board.”
In the meantime, she’s rushing to finish up as much of her work at Milford as she can before July 1.
“I am knee-deep in the consolidated grant — I want to get as much done as I possibly can,” she said. “That’s always been a part of my job responsibilities. I’m plugging along, trying to get as much done as I possibly can, grants and everything else. The more I do, the more whoever comes in behind me can spend some time learning the position instead of having to worry about meeting deadlines right away.”
Kohel added that she’s not going to disappear entirely from the district. She kept coming to MHS sports even after leaving the high school, and that won’t change either.
“I’ll always be a Buccaneer at heart,” she said.
The only question is who she’ll root for when Milford plays Woodbridge.
“That’s a tough one,” she said. “If my grandson’s playing football, my heart’s got to stay with Milford.”
The district has already started its search for another student support director.
“We’ve already put the position announcement out, and we’ll go through the regular interview process,” Kanter said.