Bow ties and high hopes

Neshaminy High School welcomes new principal


NSD Newsletter

Stephen Garstka, Neshaminy’s new principal!

Lindsay Binder, Editor-in-Chief

Neshaminy High School recently hired its new principal after it was announced that Ryan Staub, Principal of NHS since 2018, would be resigning to return to Pennsbury— Neshaminy’s rival district—as one of its assistant principals. This suddenly available position was filled quickly when former Bensalem High School Assistant Principal Stephen Garstka stepped into the role on July 1, 2022.
Entering into NHS as a former assistant principal was a significant change for Garstka. This new position has prompted him to re-examine the way that his decisions impact others.
“When I left [Bensalem], I was in charge of the Class of 2024. I also oversaw the scheduling process,” he stated. “I have to think through a lot more decisions in a different way. It’s a different perspective. Certainly, being at the top of the list makes it different.”
An important value that Garstka holds himself up to as a principal is that he wishes to be a collaborator with those in the school, rather than their “boss.”
“I hate the term ‘boss’,” he continued. “…when you’re the boss, you have to consider all the different possibilities and options before making decisions…sometimes they are hard decisions, but they have to be made, and you have to justify why you made them.”
Prior to Garstka taking on administrative roles, he led a classroom of his own.
“Previous to being an assistant principal, I taught math and physics,” he reminisced.
Despite the significant transition, he has a very positive outlook on his experience at NHS.
“I’m very happy to be here,” Garstka affirmed. “I really am feeling very welcome. I’m really excited to experience all the Neshaminy traditions. I’ve heard so much about Gym Night and football games. There are so many things I’m looking forward to getting to experience.”
Despite the recent backlash as students adjust to the school’s new policies, Garstka has high hopes for his relationship with the teachers and the student body.
“I want to be someone who is reliable and approachable—someone that teachers and students alike are able to work with—because the kids are who we are here for, and teachers are extremely important in making the Neshaminy High School experience amazing and worthwhile for all of the students,” he said. “Being able to work with all of these groups of people is going to make this the best place it can be.”
In the long-awaited return to normalcy after years of uncertainty due to COVID-19, Garstka has prioritized making positive changes in the school for the future.
“Coming in, I knew that 10th, 11th, and 12th graders are going to associate the return to ‘normal’ as, ‘Who is this new guy?’ ‘Now I have to show up to class on time,’ and ‘Why do I have to turn my cell phone in?’,” Garstka said. ”It’s completely understandable because it’s change. Change is hard.”
Beyond the seriousness and hard work that goes into being in an administrative position, Garstka enjoys many different activites in his spare time.
Many NHS students have noticed that their new principal loves to wear bow ties.
“I have about 40 [bow ties],” he laughed. “I wear them every Tuesday, and I try to mix it up. I really don’t know what my favorite one is. I think I would need them in front of me to really pick one out.”
Besides bow ties, Garstka is an avid music lover.
“My first concert was The Offspring. I went to see them at the Electric Factory… in 11th grade,” he reminisced. “It was the ‘Ixnay on the Hombre’ tour.”
When he’s not at school, he is also contributing to the local sports communities.
“I play ice hockey in a men’s league. I also do fantasy football,” Garstka expressed. “My children play ice hockey and baseball…so previously I have coached their teams.”
For students concerned, Garstka assured the Playwickian that he is a Philadelphia sports fan through and through.
“I am a ‘Philly Four’ guy. Phillies, Flyers, Sixers, Eagles, no doubt,” he proudly said.
As it turns out, he enjoys modern pop culture quite a bit.
“I enjoy watching the “Star Wars” movies with my boys. The Marvel movies are up there [as a favorite] too,” Garstka stated. “… but “Back to the Future” is my favorite movie.”
When asked about the most common argument amongst students in the state of Pennsylvania: Dunkin or Starbucks? Garstka was quick to answer.
“Starbucks,” he fired off quickly. “My go-to is a caramel macchiato… I prefer hot but sometimes you just can’t [have a hot drink in the heat].”
Though Garstka is very new to NHS, he is very hopeful and excited for a successful year for students, teachers, and staff overall.
“In each of the class meetings I was in, I talked about the idea that we are going to be able to bring back a whole lot of the fun things,” he emphasized. “But with getting things back, we also need to get back to accountability and responsibility. Everybody will have a great year.”