The Harbor School restructures top administration

The Harbor School, in an effort to tighten its belt, has decided to let go of its top administrator, turning the role over to one of its long-time teachers and its business manager.

James Cardo, an English teacher who has taught at the private school for nearly a decade, and Caroline Matter, the business manager, will jointly serve as the head of school while maintaining their other duties, Matter said.

Steve Edele, who was hired to helm the small private school two years ago when then-head Toby Welch stepped down, will leave in June, Matter said.

The decision comes as the school faces declining enrollment, a reality of Island life, Matter said, where the demographics are changing and where Chautauqua Elementary School is also seeing its population drop.

The school currently has 52 students in its fourth-through-eighth grade program. When she started at The Harbor School three years ago, Matter said, the population was in the high 50s.

The school is in sound financial shape, she said, but with a smaller enrollment, it can no longer afford a full-time head. When the school was founded 15 years ago, Welch both taught and ran the school.

“We’re at a point where we want to continue to invest and make sure our faculty offerings are strong, our program offerings are strong,” Matter said. “Making this change in the administrative structure will give us some latitude in how we spend our resources.”

“It’s really about making sure the school is the right size,” added Scott Hudson, the board of trustees’ vice-chair.

Edele, who was hired at The Harbor School after serving as the head of a private school in San Diego, “came during a really tough time. The timing was awful economically,” Hudson added.

“He brought everything he had to the school and did his best, and we really appreciate that,” he said.

Edele, 59, said he supports the school’s decision, a move the trustees made after what he called “a detailed process.”

“I’m happy in the knowledge that this move is not about me,” he added. “It’s just something the school needs to do financially right now. ”

Edele, who has worked in independent schools for more than 30 years, said he feels confident he’ll find another position soon, hopefully one that will enable him and his family to remain on Vashon.

“There are a number of opportunities for me next year,” he said.


The Harbor School’s annual auction is at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 27, at the Sportsmen’s Club.Call 567-5955 for tickets.

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