MHS Principal Brian Winter (submitted photo)

After two years as principal, Brian Winter is leaving Maricopa High School, where he had previously been athletic director, dean of students and vice principal. It is the second time he has departed the district.

Winter, who lives in Gilbert, landed a job as the principal of Gilbert High School for the 2020-21 school year. He was approved unanimously by the Gilbert Public Schools governing board April 2. He said the 2.3-mile commute to work was a factor for him.

“It was a very, very, very difficult decision,” Winter said.

Winter worked for Maricopa Unified School District during the 2011-12 school year, and then left for Millennium. He returned in 2016 as an administrator at the high school and then became principal in 2018 after MHS had a tumultuous year in the front office.

When he took over as principal, a focus was to change the perception and culture at Maricopa High School. He said Maricopa has great people serving “very, very, very amazing students.”

“I really believe we have made some positive gains,” Winter said. “It is a business, and we’re competing for kids.”

Among them was rising from a solid C to less than two points from a B, seeing the graduation rate rise 10% and keeping more students in town instead of on buses to East Valley schools. He said that includes top athletes now understanding they can get a first-rate education at MHS.

“I think Maricopa is a shining jewel down here,” said Winter, working from his office on campus during the school closure for COVID-19. “It has just so much potential for greatness.”

With the dramatic growth in MHS enrollment, he has been responsible for hiring many staff members and is still actively involved in filling positions. He’s been pleased with the results and said he is proud of their achievements.

“This is the strongest staff that I have seen,” Winter said.

He hopes his position is filled before the end of his contract in June because he wants to be involved in the transition before he uses some vacation days. That is complicated by the current closure, and he sees a lot of work ahead to prepare for new leadership.

“I’m a grinder,” he said. “I like to roll up my sleeves and work hard.”