OCHS Principal Kelly Guempel

OCHS Principal Kelly Guempel has announced his resignation after four years. He has accepted the top post at Spotsylvania County High School and will begin his new job on July 1. 

Orange County High School Principal Kelly Guempel has been named principal of Spotsylvania High School and is slated to begin his new job on July 1. He departs Orange County High School (OCHS) after four years during which he saw Standards of Learning scores go up and helped lay the groundwork for new career and technical courses in the coming school year.

On Tuesday morning, Guempel said of the school he is leaving, “I love this school. I love the kids and the teachers. We have a great staff. I think the school is in excellent shape. Parents should be proud to send their kids here to school each day, as I was as a parent.”

Guempel’s youngest child, Jake, spent his senior year at OCHS and graduated in 2018.

Guempel said he will earn a salary of $134,000 in Spotsylvania. His current salary at OCHS is $100,000 and was due to go up to $103,000, with the 3% raise all Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) staff members will receive in the new fiscal year.

He said when he told the Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) central office the salary he anticipated receiving, OCPS could not match that offer.

The financial incentive was a big part of his decision to change jobs, he explained. He said two of his children have completed degrees—one a graduate degree and the other an undergraduate degree—and their student loan bills will begin arriving soon. On top of that, the family income was about to decline because his wife, Cheryl Guempel, is leaving her position as principal of a Henrico County middle school to take a lower-paying position in the Henrico County Public Schools’ central office.

Guempel, 49, said he is heading into his 25th year working in Virginia’s public schools. With five years to go before he is eligible for full retirement benefits in the Virginia Retirement System, he said he was compelled to consider ways to boost his retirement income.

The hassle of commuting also factored into his decision to leave his current position. On the days when he commutes directly from his home in Hanover County to OCHS, Guempel said the drive takes an hour and 40 minutes. He has tried to go home twice a week, but with so many nighttime activities at the high school, he spends many nights living out of a camper at a Louisa campground. (During the year Jake was enrolled at OCHS, they shared an apartment in Orange, so his son would qualify as an Orange County resident.)

Working in Spotsylvania will allow him to live at home, spend more time with his wife, “see the dog and mow the lawn,” Guempel said with his characteristic wide grin.

Although he received confirmation of the offer from the Spotsylvania County School Board Monday night and has submitted his resignation to OCPS, the transition will not be official until the school board accepts his resignation. However, a job description for the OCHS principal’s position has already been posted on the OCPS website, so it looks like a done deal.

On Tuesday, school board chair Sherrie Page said, “Kelly’s been a great asset to that high school. He’s brought back team spirit; he’s brought back a lot of pride in the school. He’s done a good job there. I wish we could hang on to him a little longer. But he’s made that decision, so I do wish him well.”

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Hilary Holladay covers education and writes feature stories for the Orange County Review. The author of five books, she is currently writing a biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

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