Miami High School’s next principal came to the Copper Corridor on a “4-year plan,” but 15 years later has found a long-term home.
At the beginning of the next school year, current Athletic Director and Associate Principal Shawn Pietila will step into his new role as principal after Glen Lineberry’s 9-year term ends in May.
Originally from Pontiac, Michigan, Pietila brings an impressive array of educational accomplishments and more than a decade in local school systems to the Miami Unified School District (MUSD).
Pietila’s inspiration for success has been his children, Savannah (16) , Tamia (14) and Michael (7).
“Our kids have been my motivation,” says Pietila. “A lot of the sacrifices I’ve made or goals I’ve had education-wise were centered around them, so I was able to provide for them and be a good example.”
For the past four years, Pietila has been the AD of MHS, but prior to that he spent 11 years at San Carlos High School coaching football and track and field.
Before he moved to the Copper Corridor in 2008, Pietila chased his academic dreams throughout the Midwest, attending colleges in Michigan, South Dakota and Oklahoma.
Pietila holds two master’s degrees from Arizona State University in secondary sports administration and educational leadership. Prior to that, he attended Michigan Technological University, Eastern Michigan University, Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma, and East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma.
It was in South Dakota in 2004 that he met his wife Crystal Pietila, who is from San Carlos and currently teaches physical education at Charles A. Bejarano and Lee Kornegay Intermediate to students grades K-5. At the time they met, he played football and she was on the now-defunct Si Tanka University women’s basketball team.
“Oddly, our school closed the same year that we met, so I ended up finishing my bachelor’s degree in recreation management at Bacone,” Pietila says.
While Pietila enjoyed his work as a coach, he eventually wanted to use his degrees earned at ASU in 2013 and 2019 to work on the administrative side of education.
That opportunity came in when he was hired as associate principal and athletic director by Miami.
“I always wanted to be an administrator and athletic director,” Pietila says “I really enjoyed the coaching part, but after coaching so many years, I was really intrigued by the idea of being a ‘building administrator’.”
His opportunity to become principal came when Lineberry quietly announced his impending retirement last year and now the MUSD’s three schools all have principals that came from within the system. Charles A. Bejarano Elementary is led by 10-year MHS veteran English teacher Rhiannon Oldfield; Lee Kornegay Intermediate, by MHS graduate and long-time math teacher Kevin Hull; and now Pietila.
“I’m really excited that we have that homegrown feel, because they’re familiar with our students and they’re familiar with our community,” says MUSD Superintendent Sherry Dorathy. “They’re familiar with where we’ve been and where we need to go.”
Dorathy has been in local education for the past 32 years after moving to the region from Cody, Wyoming. She also has impressive bona fides, with three master’s degrees and a doctorate.
She began her career as a paraprofessional at MUSD and then spent three years in San Carlos before a stint as MHS principal prior to her 10-plus-year stint as superintendent.
“I feel like I’m not a newbie anymore,” Dorathy says. “All five of my children graduated from Miami High School and I’m seeing the grandkids of former students attending school here.”
Lineberry was an early hire for Dorathy and in the nine years they have worked together, they have overhauled the campus and survived a pandemic.
Among the improvements made with critical contributions from the District are restored science laboratories; rehabilitated wood and metal shops; new athletic fields from tennis courts to the track around the football field; renovation of the auditorium; increased internet access and improvement to the building facades from paint on the entire campus to new roofs on the buildings.
“We’ve made a lot of advancements, for sure,” Dorathy says. “It’s a bright, shining place in the community. We’ve made a lot of improvements and we will only continue to do so.”
The MUSD will not be resting on its laurels as the district continues to look to the future.
Dorathy says there is still work to be done making the campus more aesthetically pleasing and academic programs will continue to be evaluated and updated as needed.
Additionally, she has been around the district long enough to take a philosophical approach to changing circumstances.
“Change happens, doesn’t it?” Dorathy says. “Shawn has all the qualifications needed. He’ll be a great principal and I’m not worried about it at all.”
As to Peitila, his goals are to play a role in the further evolution of the schools and focus on improving students’ reading skills and parent engagement.
“We have some strong parent support around athletics, but we’d like to bring that to other areas of the building,” he says. “We’re excited to try out some new curricular programs and really give the students an incentive to increase their reading.”
Pietila says he knows the names of most of the students and this is a natural progression for him at MHS.
“It’s really neat, because it’s been a four-year cycle,” he says. “The seventh graders who came in with me are now juniors, so I’ll get to see them graduate and I’m familiar with the teachers and what’s going on in each classroom.”
Lineberry plans to leave the area to be closer to family but intends to continue working in education. He’ll be teaching in graduate-level principal preparation programs and “hopefully working far fewer hours.”
He is proud of the work he has accomplished with Dorathy and confident the school will be in good hands with Pietila.
“Dr Dorathy leads the District quietly and effectively, setting and monitoring goals but leaving her principals the running room to get things done,” Lineberry says. “Her sole concern is delivering to students the curriculum, instruction, and supports they need to succeed in school and after graduation. Mr Pietila will fit admirably into that system. He wears lightly his academic qualifications, leads by example as well as direction, and is absolutely committed to real student success.”
Journalist, writer and editor who has worked for community newspapers for more than 15 years. After four years at Davis-Monthan AFB and a few years living in Tucson, moved to California to find his fortune. He is happy to be back in Arizona, in the mountains he loves.