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Story Last modified at 2:51 p.m. on Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New high school principals ring in 2011-12 school year
CHS, ERHS each have fresh leaders in charge

Alaska Star





New principals at both Chugiak and Eagle River High will greet students when the 2011-12 school year officially begins this Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Former Eagle River teacher Marty Lang is taking over as the new principal in the school's seventh year in existence.

Lang replaced Natalie Burnett, who is the new principal at Benny Benson Secondary School in Anchorage. Burnett, in turn, replaced Sam Spinella, who was selected as the new principal at Chugiak High in May. Burnett had served as Eagle River's principal since the school opened in 2005.

Spinella took over for Chugiak's Rick Volk after Volk retired this year.

"Sam is absolutely committed to all students being successful, and I believe will be an excellent leader for Chugiak for many years to come," Superintendent Carol Comeau said in a press release in May. "He works very well with all of the comprehensive high schools, and is committed to increasing student success for ninth-graders at Chugiak."

Lang, who taught English at Eagle River for four years, is just the second principal in the school's short history.

"I'm very excited to be back," Lang said. "It feels like a homecoming for me, that's for sure."

Originally from Seattle, Lang worked in Alaska during summer breaks while an undergraduate student at the University of Washington. He later earned a graduate degree at Western Washington University before returning to Alaska for good.

After student teaching at Chugiak, Lang taught there for six years before moving to Eagle River when the school opened. His last two years were spent as an assistant principal at Dimond High in Anchorage.

Lang said he likes the smaller community feel Eagle River provides.

"I really like the size of Eagle River High School," he said. "I want to work in a school in the community I live."

Eagle River offers a feeling of connectedness, Lang added. Its size allows staff to know all the students' names and faces, he said.

The school already has a strong academic foundation and community, Lang said. The next step is figuring out what staff and students want to layer on top of that foundation, he said.

Lang said the education field gives him an opportunity to make a difference — just as teachers have in his own life — and allows him to work in a career that matters.

"I just have always loved working with high school age kids," Lang said. "Adolescence is such a critical time."

Lang said he's felt that way as a teacher and administrator.

"It is just always something that has energized me," he said. "I get to have a positive effect on students' lives."

Spinella came to Alaska with 20 years of educational experience Outside. He joined the Anchorage School District in 2002-03. He served as an assistant principal at East High for six years and principal at Benny Benson for three years.

Comeau told the Star in May she thinks Spinella will be a good fit at Chugiak.

"He's not an overly charismatic person when you first meet him, but he's solid as a rock," she said. "He gets to know the students, every single student, not just the student government or the athletes or the at-risk kids.

"He has a diverse set of experiences that should serve him well at Chugiak," Comeau said.

Contact Mike Nesper at or 694-2727

This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, August 10, 2011.