Independent School principal says he's leaving

The Independent School will get a new principal along with a new head of schools this summer.

Chris Brena, principal of Independent's Upper School, recently informed his staff that he will leave the school after the spring semester.

In November, the school's board chose Mary Dickerson to be Independent's next head of schools. She will take over that role in July, overseeing Independent's three schools — lower, middle and upper — which have 615 students.

Brena, who will remain at the private east Wichita school through June, said the administrative change is not the reason he is leaving.

"It was just family timing," he said. "I think Mary will be great. I would have looked forward to working with her."

Dickerson met Brena and the rest of Independent's administration in the fall when she interviewed but said she had not talked to him about his decision.

"I was frankly disappointed to hear that he was not returning," she said. "I liked him. I liked all of the school's administration."

Brena, who has a wife and two children, said he made the decision with his family during the school's winter break and told his staff last week.

"I'm looking for a new challenge," he said. "We're starting a new leadership with Mary Dickerson coming in. That will be really exciting for the school, but I just felt it was time to seek a new challenge for myself professionally."

Brena said he is looking at jobs in school administration across the country and internationally.

Before taking the job at Independent in May 2008, Brena taught in Maine and Connecticut and attended graduate school in Virginia.

Steve Dunne, who is chairman of the school board and has two children who attend the school, said he was disappointed to hear Brena was leaving.

"We are certainly going to miss him as a board, and I will as a parent as well," he said.

Dickerson, a Derby native, is currently Head of School at St. Vincent's Cathedral School in Bedford, Texas. She said she always admired Independent and wanted to be closer to her family in the Wichita area.

"It's always been my dream job," she said.

Chris Taylor, Independent's interim head, has been at the school since last January. Taylor replaced Ed Walters, who had been head of the school since 2006.

Walters was fired last January and sued the school for breach of contract and defamation last February, claiming there was no reason for his termination.

The suit was settled out of court, Dunne said.