Ridgewood Middle School has a new principal and assistant principal.
Patrick Schwalbe, who had been the assistant principal at Meramec Heights Elementary School since 2015, has been promoted to principal at Ridgewood.
Schwalbe is replacing Jaime Cavato, who had been principal at Ridgewood since 2013 and has filled the newly created role of director of federal programs and human resources.
In addition, Angela Baker, who was the district’s federal programs coordinator, is now the assistant principal at Ridgewood, replacing Courtney Meagher, who is now the principal of Seckman Middle School.
Schwalbe, 43, of Imperial, who was paid $92,470.55 a year as an assistant principal, will be paid a $113,000 annual salary as the Ridgewood principal.
Cavato, 42, of St. Louis County and Baker will not see a pay increase, so Cavato will continue to be paid $126,775.20 a year, and Baker will be paid a $105,000 annual salary.
The promotions for Cavato and Baker followed a plan the Fox Board of Education approved in May that allows the superintendent to combine administrative and central office duties in an effort to reduce staff.
“It allows us as a district to look at options,” said Nisha Patel, who took over July 1 as the district’s superintendent. “We can reflect on practices and job responsibilities, and if there are opportunities for us to consolidate certain jobs and help us be responsible toward our taxpayers, that is a good thing.”
The changes in roles for Schwalbe, Baker and Cavato came on the heels of the district naming Tammy Cardona the next assistant superintendent in charge of secondary education after serving as the Seckman Middle School principal and promoting Jeff Krutzsch from Seckman High School assistant principal to that school’s principal. In addition, Meagher was promoted to principal at Seckman Middle School, and Fox High School social studies teacher Chelsea Boyd was named an assistant principal at Seckman High School.
“My belief is we always put the people in the best position to carry out the duties they need to carry out for the district,” Patel said of the flurry of job changes inside Fox since the 2018-2019 school year ended.
At Ridgewood, Schwalbe will be overseeing the same students he worked with the past four years at Meramec Heights.
“That is really awesome that I get to keep working with all of the families that I have built relationships with at Meramec,” Schwalbe said. “I have seen their kids grow. I kind of get to graduate with them and go to Ridgewood.”
Schwalbe has worked for the Fox district since 2000, starting as a social studies teacher at Fox High School. He also coached track and boys golf at Fox High.
Schwalbe became an assistant principal at Guffey Elementary in 2013 before moving to Meramec Heights in 2015.
Schwalbe said those different educational roles will help him with his job as Ridgewood principal.
“I know where the kids are at when they leave elementary and come to the middle school,” Schwalbe said. “I know where the kids need to be when they leave middle school and go to high school. I think it is kind of a dream job for me because I get to use all of my experiences to help the kids out.”
Patel said Schwalbe is one of the most dedicated and hardworking employees in the district, and she likes that he is staying with families he developed relationships with at the elementary school level.
“I’m very excited to see the vertical alignment that he will be able to provide,” Patel said. “That is one of the focus areas of the Fox School District this upcoming school year, being able to build bridges between elementary and middle schools and middle schools and high schools. That is a huge piece that Patrick Schwalbe brings to Ridgewood.”
Schwalbe and his wife, Heather, a guidance counselor at Fox High, have been married for 14 years and have two children – daughter Taylor, 11, and son Cole, 6.
“Having a daughter just starting middle school is really exciting for me,” said Schwalbe, whose daughter will attend Fox Middle. “I have a vested interest in making sure our middle schools in the district are the best that they can be.”
The Fox C-6 Board of Education voted 6-0 in a June 4 closed session to promote Schwalbe. Board member Jim Chellew was absent for the vote.
Cavato said she is looking forward to her new job.
“I’m so excited and humbled by the fact that I’m going to get to serve the entire district,” she said. “I’ve worked in the district for 18 years, and now, I will get to serve multiple individuals throughout the district.”
Cavato arrived at Fox in 2001 as a diagnostician at Fox and Ridgewood middle schools. She held that position until 2004, when she became an assistant principal at Fox Middle.
In 2006, she became an assistant principal at Ridgewood, and she moved to the high school level in 2009, becoming an assistant principal at Fox High.
Cavato then became an assistant principal at Seckman High in 2010, before returning to Ridgewood as the building’s principal in 2013.
Cavato said she knows she is leaving Ridgewood in “outstanding hands.”
“Our community is familiar with Pat (Schwalbe), who is taking my spot. Also, the teachers in this building allow the building to be who we are; it is not about me being an outstanding leader,” she said. “Every teacher in this building is involved in a leadership role in one way or another. They all take ownership of something. That is why I know this building will continue to thrive.”
Cavato said she is familiar with how federal programs work since 37 to 40 percent of the students at Ridgewood are eligible for some form of federal assistance. She also has dealt with students who need extra assistance because they come from homes where English isn’t the primary language or have other situations that could make learning more challenging.
She also is looking forward to helping the district’s human resource department under assistant superintendent Kelly Bracht’s guidance.
“I will be able to provide whatever services and support I can throughout the district to those who need it,” Cavato said.
Cavato and her husband, Christopher, have four children – Maria, 16; Peter, 14; Sam, 10 and Sophia, 4.
Patel said she believes Cavato will excel in her new leadership role.
“(Cavato) made Ridgewood Middle School into one of the top performing schools in the district,” Patel said. “Her strengths are very well suited for the federal program coordinator positions. We feel she will be very successful in that role, and she felt she was ready for a new challenge.”