New Salem-Keizer principals for the 2020-21 school year, from top left to bottom right: Chad Towe, Artonya Gemmill, Christine Bowlby, Lizi Aguilar-Nelson, Sophia Duerst, Greg Watson and Jesse Payne.

Three local elementary schools will have new principals this fall as the Salem-Keizer school district shuffles administrators to run its new online learning academy.

District administrators also selected a new principal for North Salem High School and the Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School.

Principals Artonya Gemmil, formerly of Clear Lake Elementary School, and Christine Bowlby, formerly of Keizer Elementary School, are leaving those schools to oversee EDGE, the district’s all-online program which currently has about 2,000 students enrolled.

Replacing Gemmill is Greg Watson, who spent the past year as an assistant principal at Four Corners Elementary School in southeast Salem. Watson spent 13 years as an elementary school teacher and has worked in Salem-Keizer as a behavior specialist and instructional mentor, according to a district news release.

Lizi Aguilar-Nelson will lead Keizer Elementary after five years as principal at Liberty Elementary. Aguilar-Nelson has worked in the district for 30 years as a bilingual classroom aide, then a bilingual teacher, before becoming a school principal in 2007.

At Liberty Elementary, Sophia Duerst is taking over as principal. She’s been with Salem-Keizer since 2013, starting in preschool programs before working as an assistant principal at Auburn and Pringle elementary schools.

Chad Towe is the new principal for Salem’s oldest high school, coming to North after six years as principal of Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon. He formerly taught high school English in Portland and has also taught in Sweden, the Bahamas and Japan.

Jesse Payne, who’s been principal of Valley Inquiry Charter School since 2018, will also run Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School, another district charter school. Payne previously worked as the director of undergraduate teacher education at Corban University.

Correction: This article was updated to clarify that EDGE is a program, not a separate school.

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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: or 503-575-1241.