New DHS principal is elated about job

New Delano High School Principal Steve Heil wants to know what makes “a really good 21st  century high school,” so he is asking the entire community that question — not just the school community.

Steve Heil, new Delano High School principal, meets one of the many tigers lurking around and inside the school. (Photo by Susan Van Cleaf)
Steve Heil, new Delano High School principal, meets one of the many tigers lurking around and inside the school. (Photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

Anyone who is interested can go to the Delano Public Schools website at to chip in his or her ideas. Click on the “community question” link. Paper answers can be dropped off at the high school office.

Heil says participants in the survey will be “totally anonymous.” Their feedback “will be a real help to the school. I really want a lot of community input.”

This is one way Heil is getting to know the community and preparing for the job he has before him. Since his arrival in July, he also has been meeting with teachers who have been coming in to DHS on their own time. The teachers have been giving him ideas, and he has been learning what they do for the school.

“One of the best parts” of getting to know his new school is “I’ve got Matt (Schoen) as a resource and he’s got me as a resource as our leadership grows,” Heil said.

Schoen moved from his principal’s job at DHS to the position of Delano superintendent of schools, when Dr. John Sweet retired from the superintendent spot early this summer. Then Heil stepped into Schoen’s old job. Heil’s office at DHS is so close to Schoen’s that they almost can yell questions to each other through the wall.

Moving to Delano is almost like coming home for Heil. He was born and raised in Minnesota. His wife Katie has relatives who go back a long way in Delano. Her great-grandmother lived on a farm close to Delano on Highway 12 where the family grew broomcorn. Katie also has two great aunts and a grandmother who were born here.

The Heils are experiencing Delano Public Schools as parents. Tseh and Sonny are enrolled at Delano Elementary School and Savannah at Wee Tiger Pre-school. At age 2, Torrey is an enrollee to be.

Already, Steve Heil has joined the Delano Lions. He is contacting the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to see whether they need leadership help. And one of his sons was involved in baseball in Arizona and wants to try other sports.

Heil received his bachelor of science degree in teaching from Winona State University and then continued his teaching career in Arizona. He has a masters degree in educational leadership and a principal certificate from Northern Arizona University.

His resume includes teaching seventh and eighth grade science, eighth grade math and sixth grade physical education at Cactus Middle School in Casa Grande, Ariz. He coached many different sports, taught science and was director of athletics at Casa Grande Union High School, where he also was district federal grant writer.

Just prior to coming to Delano, Heil served as principal at Casa Verde High School in Casa Grande.

“I was elated to see Delano was open when I applied,” he said. “I knew Delano was strong in academics, and I was pleased that they got even stronger. This shows the amount of support education has in this community. This is not just a great school district. It’s a great community that values education and knows that children are our future.”

He continued, “The really neat thing about Delano Public Schools, especially Delano High School, is how well teachers collaborate and work together. All of the staff members have so much community pride.” Within an hour of coming to town he learned exactly where to get his school gear.

Heil also has noticed the tight budget at Delano Schools. “This economy has made people realize how much things cost and how tough it is to get jobs,” he said. “Schools have to really streamline their budgets. Delano Schools have been frugal for a long time. They have done a lot with a little.”

And now, “Everybody is excited to see school starting up,” Heil said. During the weeks before school, many students showed up to participate in athletics.

“Even though they don’t admit it, they are ready for school to start,” he said.