OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Marie Cullen will become the new principal of Osan American High School next month, officials announced Wednesday.

Cullen, now assistant principal at Pusan American School in South Korea, is to start at Osan by May 15, said officials of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea district office in Seoul. She replaces Carol Czerw as Osan’s principal.

Czerw (pronounced “sir”) left Osan in January to become head of education for the DODDS school system in Europe. She’s based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Cullen comes to the new job with “a wealth of experience,” said Warren Tobin, DODDS- Korea district chief of staff.

She’s worked as a DODDS assistant principal at three schools in South Korea: Seoul American High School from August 1992 to June 1997, Osan American High School from August 1997 to June 1999 and Pusan American School since August 1999. Cullen’s first assignment as a DODDS assistant principal was at George Dewey High School in the Philippines in 1989.

She’s also worked as a DODDS reading improvement specialist and classroom teacher in Europe, the Middle East, Japan and the Philippines, DODDS officials said.

Other work experience includes supervisor and classroom teacher at the John F. Kennedy Adult Vocational Education Center in Philadelphia.

“I’m excited, I’m thrilled, it’s a wonderful opportunity and it’s a marvelous school,” Cullen said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m looking forward to being there. I was assistant principal there before … so I feel like I’m returning ‘home’ in some sense of that word.”

Easing overcrowding at Osan American is “certainly going to be one of the very first priorities to look at,” she said.

Overcrowding became a contentious issue in 2004 for the U.S. military communities at Osan Air Base and Camp Humphreys. The schools are about 10 miles apart in the Pyongtaek region of west-central South Korea.

Dozens of students, mostly from civilian contractors’ families, found themselves on waiting lists as the 2004-05 school year approached in August. They were crowded out by a surge of students from active-duty families, who get priority in DODDS enrollment.

The top U.S. military commander in South Korea, Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, had a direct hand in resolving the crunch, and many of the waiting students eventually were enrolled.

Since then, the U.S. military has said it will build temporary classrooms at both installations, four at Osan and six for the Camp Humphreys American Elementary School.

“I’m hoping that it will be possible to put in four new classrooms to help ease the strain on students,” Cullen said. “Certainly we’re going to do everything in our power to correct that.”

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