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East looking well-principaled

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Maybe 35 years in schools isn't enough or three years of retirement is too much.

Either way, Harold Trussel, retired assistant superintendent of Salt Lake City School District and the principal credited with turning around West High School, is setting aside cruises and electric trains for classrooms and extracurricular activities.

Trussel has agreed to lead East High School for one year.

He replaces Bob Pliley, who resigned at the end of last school year.

"I've gone to East instead of Hawaii or Alaska," chuckled Trussel, who spent his short retirement on Mediterranean cruises, European vacations and volunteering at the Utah State Prison as clergy and literacy promoter.

Former colleagues characterize Trussel as a tough but tender leader.

Trussel has taught at or led three junior highs that have been closed or converted by the district. He also has been principal of Bryant Intermediate.

He was brought to West High in the mid-1980s, when middle-class students were fleeing inner-city schools. Lockers were marred with graffiti and ceilings speckled with tobacco spit. When he left, it was a place of pride and home to an International Baccalaureate program.

Trussel used to spend lunch visiting with students and honored good deeds and academic excellence through invitations to dine at West's "Principal's Table." He also used to leave inspirational notes on teachers' desks and candy in students' lockers.

Trussel says he'll probably do similar things once he settles into Leopard territory.

"The faculty seems to be upbeat and excited about having Harold here," said Dale Greenland, an East campus supervisor. "Everyone I've talked to has a positive attitude."

Trussel hopes that excitement carries through the school year.

"Probably the No. 1 task is to earn their trust and confidence. Another one for me would be to inspire a vision (for academics and spirit) . . . and have some followers," or "Trussel Sprouts," as former colleagues used to call them. "I think they will do marvelous things."

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com