IAHS principal helps students succeed

BLACKFOOT — The weather hasn't been conducive to training for such things as a triathlon, a competition which involves bike riding, swimming and running.
But Mark Kartchner and his wife Holly are determined to be ready.
"We're working on doing some triathlons this summer," said Kartchner, who is principal of Independence Alternative High School (IAHS). "We're training in the pool and the roads right now.
"I like to fish, too," continued Kartchner. He said he enjoys spending time with his brother-in-law, who is a fishing guide in Washington state.
During the school year he's busy with his responsibilities at IAHS, but enjoys spending time with his wife supporting their students in their activities. Holly teaches American government at Blackfoot High School and is advisor to the "We the People" competition team which has won several state championships.
"We try to go to a lot of our students' stuff," Kartchner said. "We're BPAC sponsors."
To take their minds off their jobs, the couple also enjoy restoring their home and working in their garden.
"We're starting a raspberry ranch," he said with a laugh. "We always have a huge garden.
"We live in a house that was built in 1920," he noted. "We have gutted the whole thing and restored and remodeled it."
Kartchner is a native of Hooper, Utah, which is near Ogden. He graduated from Utah State University with a degree in finance and economics. He spent 11 years teaching in Ogden and slowly working on an administrator's certificate. Once he earned it, he moved to Blackfoot to become principal of the alternative school.
That master's degree is in business information systems and education.
His move to Blackfoot came 16 years ago.
The job wasn't an easy one early on.
"When they gave me this job, it was in turmoil," he recalled. He said there were threats of lawsuits and all the stakeholders in the school were unhappy.
Today he and his staff are preparing to graduate nearly 50 students.
"From then until now I think we've improved buildings. (The school is now housed in an old elementary school which comfortably houses its 150 students, eight teachers, counselor and other staff members.) I think we have one of the best staffs in the state.
"A lot of kids have graduated from here," he said with pride. "We've made it possible for them to help themselves."
Kartchner is proud of his role in helping secure $3.5 million in grants for the school and its students.
On a personal level, he is proud of his children. He has four from a previous marriage — three sons and a daughter. His daughter graduated with a master's degree from Utah State last year and his youngest son is finishing at USU now. Another son is an emergency medical technician.
He and Holly met at school and have been married 13 years. Her children live mostly in the Seattle area. The couple share three grandchildren with another expected this summer.
"I've very proud of my kids," he said. "They have done well. One has a law degree from Gonzaga and another is in graduate school in Sweden.
"And I'm proud of Holly," he continued. "She's the first in her family to have a degree. And I think she's a great teacher."