New Leaders to Take the Helm at Four DMPS Schools

Four experienced leaders are being promoted to elementary and middle school principals at Des Moines Public Schools. They are: Kathryn Panek (Merrill Middle School); Stephanie Flickinger (Monroe Elementary School); Edward McCulley (Moulton Elementary School); and Michael Derrick (Perkins Elementary School).

“This is a strong new group of educational leaders for our schools who are well aware of our goals and objectives to support the needs of all students in Des Moines,” said Dr. Thomas Ahart, superintendent of Des Moines Public Schools. “Each day we are moving towards our goal of being the national model for urban education, and I know that each of these four principals are going to work closely with their schools and communities to support that effort.”

Three of the principals begin their new positions in July while McCulley drops “interim” from his title at Moulton this month. Our new school leaders are:


Kathryn Panek – Merrill Middle School

Kathryn Panek, Principal 

Kathryn Panek is already a strong leader at Merrill Middle School, one of the district’s 10 International Baccalaureate Schools. Serving as School Improvement Leader, Panek worked in tandem with teachers to create conditions for student academic success and readiness to serve in a global community. She served the same role at Hoover High School. Panek also has experience as a Special Education teacher, and middle school principal at Winterset Community Schools. Panek earned her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Simpson College and a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Iowa State University. Panek takes over for Alex Hanna, who will retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.


Stephanie Flickinger – Monroe Elementary School

Stephanie Flickinger, Principal

Stephanie Flickinger is already serving Des Moines Public Schools as Assistant Principal at Brubaker Elementary School, the district’s largest elementary school. She has also served as principal at The Downtown School and spent six years as principal at Reede Gray Elementary School in Redwood Falls, MN. Flickinger earned her Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Northern Iowa and her Master’s degree in Teaching from Saint Mary’s University in Minneapolis. She takes over for Laurel Prior-Sweet, who will retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.


Edward McCulley – Moulton Elementary School

Edward McCulley, Principal 

Edward McCulley is veteran educator with Des Moines Public Schools. Serving the district since 2005, he began as a teacher at Hiatt Middle School. McCulley then accepted an offer to become a School Improvement Leader at North High School, where he took over as Vice Principal in 2013. McCulley earned his Bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with a focus in Elementary Education from Portland State University in Oregon, and a Master’s degree in Education Administration from Iowa State University. McCulley is already serving as interim principal at Moulton, and will now drop the ‘interim” from his title.


Michael Derrick – Perkins Elementary School

Michael Derrick, Principal

Michael Derrick comes to Des Moines Public Schools from the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching where he worked as Project Director, coaching teachers and principals in small Iowa districts. Derrick started his career as a middle school math teacher in South Carolina, before becoming a middle school assistant principal, and then an elementary school principal in the Florence 3 School District. He went on to serve as a middle school principal for five years in Knoxville, TN. Derrick earned his Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the College of Charleston, and his Master’s degree in Elementary Administration from The Citadel, also located in Charleston. Derrick takes over for Danny Koss, who will retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year.