Osan American High School principal Carol Czerw talks with teacher Kwon Tae-bong on Tuesday on Osan Air Base, South Korea. Czerw departs Osan next week to become chief of education for DODDS-Europe.

Osan American High School principal Carol Czerw talks with teacher Kwon Tae-bong on Tuesday on Osan Air Base, South Korea. Czerw departs Osan next week to become chief of education for DODDS-Europe. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — Osan American High School principal Carol Czerw will leave South Korea next week to become head of education for the Defense Department’s school system in Europe.

Czerw (pronounced “sir”) will end her tenure as Osan’s principal on Jan. 28 to become the third-ranking official with the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Europe area office in Wiesbaden, Germany. She begins her new duties Feb. 7.

“Basically,” said Dennis Rozzi, DODDS- Korea assistant district superintendent, “she will be the chief of education for all of Europe … that’s an important position.”

A veteran educator, Czerw is to be in charge of a broad range of educational matters for DODDS-Europe, including curriculum oversight, teacher training, educational standards and ensuring schools are given needed resources.

“We look at standards, we look at the curriculum that’s taught in each school,” she said, as well as ensuring compliance with Department of Defense Education Activity, or DODEA, initiatives.

DODDS officials have yet to select her successor.

Czerw, who became Osan’s principal in 2002, has worked in education for 35 years, the past seven with DODDS.

Osan American High School has 306 students in grades 7 through 12. It’s on Osan Air Base, in Pyongtaek City’s Songtan district in central South Korea.

“I call it ‘the president’s premier high school,’” Czerw said, “because we have the best standardized test scores in all of DODEA. This is a very high-achieving school.”

Making room for a growing student population will be her successor’s paramount challenge, she predicted. “The biggest thing, by far, is space. August is going to be here before you know it,” she said. “We need four additional classrooms, and it’s going to take a collaboration between all the stakeholders.”

Last year, as enrollment for the new school year began in August, dozens of students — mostly from civilian contractors’ families — were placed on waiting lists. A surge in students from active-duty military families, who get priority in DODDS enrollment, left those on waiting lists facing the prospect of being unable to enroll as planned.

The crunch set school and U.S. military officials scrambling to find a solution and eventually drew the involvement of the top U.S. military commander in South Korea, Army Gen. Leon J. LaPorte.

Officials resolved the crisis, announcing about 10 days later that they’d make room for some 40 students at the Osan school and for another 35 or so waiting to attend the Camp Humphreys Elementary School, 10 miles south in the Pyongtaek region.

DODDS enrollments at Osan and Camp Humphreys are expected to continue to rise in coming years as the U.S. military proceeds with plans to transform the Pyongtaek region into the larger of two eventual hubs for U.S. forces on the peninsula.

One major task for Czerw in the Europe job will be to preside over a staff restructuring undertaken to bring more uniformity to how the system carries out DODDS policies and initiatives, she said.

“We need a more uniform system of getting all the DODDS initiatives out into the schools,” she said.

“One thing that will help me in this new job is a deep and abiding understanding of what principals have to do,” said Czerw. “I have an empathy for what those principals have to do every day. Unless you’ve been a high school principal, nobody has any clue of what you have to do. So I can bring some practicality … to our procedures.”

“She’s just been an exceptional educational leader,” said Rozzi. “Not only does Carol have a great knowledge of education, she always puts kids first in all of her decisions. She’ll be missed.”

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