Belleville East gets new principal as district prepares to do more to help freshmen

Meet Belleville East High School’s new principal

Belleville East High School Principal Josh Lane talks about an accomplishment from his 13 years in education.
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Belleville East High School Principal Josh Lane talks about an accomplishment from his 13 years in education.

When Belleville District 201 students return to their classrooms in August, there will be new attention on the incoming freshmen and a new principal at Belleville East High School.

Former Belleville East principal Jason Karstens said he wanted to move into a different position because of the stress and demand of being a principal.

Now Karstens is an assistant principal at Belleville West High School, and part of the job will be helping freshmen in new ways. He said he made the decision for his health and his family.

“It was time to rearrange the pots on the burner,” Karstens said.

The district picked Josh Lane to replace Karstens as principal at East.

Most recently, Lane worked as a coordinator of administrative services, which means he helped Belleville District 201 with decisions like running its own school bus service. Before that, was principal at Millstadt Consolidated School for three years and assistant principal at Belleville East for one year.

Josh Lane Provided

Lane started his career as a social studies teacher and coach at Belleville East in 2005.

Belleville District 201 Superintendent Jeff Dosier described Lane as a strong leader with experience in transportation, technology, school safety and teaching.

Lane was involved in studying the district’s transportation options during the 2016-17 school year. Then in the 2017-18 school year, Lane was trying to find an app for cellphones or other devices that staff could use to access the district’s safety plan, which he’s still working on, according to Dosier.

This summer, Lane said, he’ll be learning more about the campus at Belleville East and about his new job there.

“I know the faculty well,” he said. “I know how talented they are. I know that there is not another group of staff that comes in and works harder, and when you combine that with the talented students we have, we don’t need to make major changes. None of that is necessary.

“What we need to do is find out the little, small changes we can make to help them be even more successful, to help our best students shine even brighter and our students that may struggle, to find out exactly what we can do to help them reach their potential also.”

Karstens’ move to Belleville West is giving the district a second administrator there who can focus on the transition to high school for freshmen, who might be coming from an eighth-grade class as small as 30 students. In 2017, there were about 655 freshmen at Belleville East and 559 at Belleville West.

Dosier said the effort to communicate more with those students will be district-wide.

The goal is to let freshmen know about the services available at school, such as counselors, to reassure them and to help them feel connected to their new school.

Dosier said the recent administrative changes also led to a discussion about stress among the staff. “I have a lot of respect for Jason for acknowledging that,” Dosier said. “I think we’ve always known that there’s some stress, but Jason’s decision has caused me to start talking about it more.”

He thinks cellphones and social media are contributing to educators’ stress, because they can be constantly connected to work through them. Dosier said he removed email communication from his phone, but he’ll still get a late-night call sometimes.

“It’s probably not unique to education,” Dosier said. “But when you deal with the lives of young students, there is a sense of urgency to help them address problems.”

Karstens has worked in Belleville District 201 since 2012. He spent three years as an assistant principal at Belleville East before becoming principal there in 2015.

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Former Belleville East High School principal Jason Karstens speaks with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner during a 2016 tour of the campus.

He described his journey to Belleville West as “a little bit of a homecoming” because it’s where he graduated from high school in 1995 and where he first became interested in education as a career.

“This school got me to where I am today,” Karstens said.

And he’ll still be collaborating with former colleagues at Belleville East, he said.

“I built a lot of relationships with the Belleville East family and staff, and that’s not going to go away,” Karstens said. “I look forward to building those same relationships on the west side of town.”

Karstens will also work with recent graduates through a district program that helps students who have developmental disabilities learn to be independent.

In his new role, Lane’s salary is $129,113.14, which is a pay increase from his previous job.

Karstens’ new salary is $94,743.75, which is a pay cut.

At a glance

Name: Josh Lane

Age: 37

Position: Belleville East High School principal

Experience: Seven years as Belleville East High School social studies teacher; one year as Belleville East assistant principal; three years as Millstadt Consolidated School principal; two years as Belleville District 201 coordinator of administrative services

Family: Wife Kari; son Kaedon, 8; and daughter Kailey, 6