LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's an experiment at Jefferson County Public Schools involving kids at two schools in the Highlands

The principal switch highlights a new law and the school district's need to fill jobs. 

Word travels fast on a high school campus -- and the buzz around Atherton High School on Thursday rocked registration. Longtime principal Thomas Aberli asked for a reassignment, volunteering to spend the next two years at Highland Middle School, one of Atherton's main feeder schools. 

"At football camp, we were all talking about it," said Andy Heady, a sophomore at Atherton. '

Patricia McCormack, a parent, says the news is jumping from phone to phone.

"Text messages and then the email," she said.

McCormack said she is shocked.

"What's going to happen to this school?" she wondered.

"I'm kind of sad about it," said student Kayla Webb. "He was a good principal."

"We're all really upset about it," sophomore Alisha Shiarpe added. "I know one of my friends even walked up to him and said, 'Why are you leaving?'" 

But Aberli says it's about looking to the future.

"I really look forward to creating a collaborative relationship among the teachers," Aberli said.

Highland Middle School has struggled with weak morale among teachers, poor student behavior and kids not prepared enough for Atherton, one of JCPS' higher performing high schools. 

Aberli is full of ideas.

"Our math teachers at Highland and Atherton -- I bring in three subs, and in the morning, the math teachers come to Highland while the subs cover, and in the afternoon, visa versa, to observe," Aberli said.

The change went from request to reality in a day, thanks to a new law which allows the school district to bypass the traditional interview process. 

It also underscores a rush to hire. JCPS has  more than 150 teaching, instructional and school support positions to fill.

"We're looking for qualified candidates who care about kids -- and our HR folks assure us there will be a teacher for every classroom on August the 10th," said JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin. 

Vice Principal Richard Guetig is taking Aberli's place in the interim. 

"I can assure them that Atherton will continue the way it has been," said Guetig.

Like a real-life science experiment, they have a hypothesis -- and two years to see if the formula works. 

"He's going to help out a school that needs help, so he's doing the right thing," Heady said.  

Aberli replaces Steve Heckman at Highland Middle School. Heckman is going to be an assistant principal next year at the Phoenix School of Discovery. 

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