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Jeff Simon serves as the Principal of Payson High School. His tenure in Payson began in 2013 when he assumed the role of Assistant Principal at Payson High School, a position he held until the 2016-2017 school year. Following this, Jeff was promoted to Principal in the 2017-2018 school year.

Throughout his time in leadership positions, Jeff has earned recognitions such as NASSP/ASA Arizona’s Principal of the Year for the 2020-2021 academic year and previously as NASSP/ASA Arizona’s Assistant Principal of the Year in 2016-2017.

Hailing from Craig, Colorado, Jeff embarked on his academic journey after graduating from Moffat County High School by attending Red Rocks Community College and later Regis University. In 2000, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Studies, Secondary Education. Continuing his pursuit of education, Jeff obtained two Masters of Science in Education degrees from Walden University. In 2007, he completed his first master’s degree with an emphasis in Technology and Curriculum, followed by another in 2009 with a focus on Educational Leadership.

I still find it a blessing to be able to come to work every day to serve the students, teachers and families of our great community.

It’s Great to be a Longhorn!

PCSA Lead Teacher

Renae Short grew up in Kinston, Alabama. In 1991, she moved to Birmingham, Alabama to attend the University of Alabama Birmingham for both her Bachelors of Science in Education and her Masters in Secondary Education. Renae has been teaching mathematics and special education as well as school administration since 1996. She moved to Payson with her husband and canine kids in 2012 to teach mathematics and special education. She became the PCS Lead Teacher in 2020. 

Assistant Principal

Mrs. Harpe started her career in education in 1993 as a middle school teacher and coach in Meridian, Idaho. She has a Bachelors in Elementary Education from Boise State University.
Upon earning her Masters in Educational Leadership at Northwest Nazarene University she accepted a position as the Rim Country Middle School assistant principal (in PUSD) in 2004.

After gaining experience as a principal in two other Arizona districts, Mrs. Harpe returned to Payson Unified School District as a teacher and in 2020 became the Payson High Schools assistant principal.

Mrs. Harpe had two children attend the majority of their education in PUSD. She wants to continue to be a leader that focuses on improvement and providing opportunities for students. Mrs. Harpe is proud to support students in their journey of learning, growing, and becoming responsible adults and community members.

When not at work, Mrs. Harpe enjoys golfing with her husband and son, playing with her granddaughter, visiting her daughter in Oregon, and taking her dogs for walks in the forest.


Mr. Michael-James L. Ellis has been teaching high school science in the Payson Unified School District since 2010. Although his background is in Physics, he has taught various classes over the years, including AP Physics, Physics, Physical Science, Life Science, all of the online science classes, and even some online middle school science classes. He also taught Engineering from 2013 to 2016 and mentored and coached the district’s first-ever FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team from 2013 to 2020. In 2017, he was awarded the FIRST Robotics Arizona Regional Teacher of the Year award. Mr. Ellis has also collaborated with Dr. Russell Genet from EAC to develop a dual-enrollment Astronomical Research course for the students of Payson High School. This initiative aims to provide a valuable opportunity for young and enthusiastic students to delve into the intricate realm of scientific research, gain practical experience, and publish in a genuine scientific journal before graduating from high school.

Mr. Ellis served as the District’s Emergency Response Coordinator for two years. He is the distance learning tutor and test coordinator for students in the Tonto Basin area. During the summer, Mr. Ellis works full-time at Whispering Hope Ranch as a ranch hand and camp staff member. Additionally, he is a staff scientist with the Fairborn Institute.

Mr. Ellis believes that one of the most advantageous aspects of the education profession is the ability to engage in personal learning and growth. He is driven by the desire to acquire knowledge and explore new discoveries. When he has free time, Mr. Ellis enjoys a variety of hobbies, including astronomy, woodworking, model railroading, photography, videography, playing music (drums, guitar, bass), camping, kayaking, fishing, collecting Lego mini-figures, books, and movies. Mr. Ellis also adores animals, and as a result of growing up in New Hampshire, loves hockey and is a big Boston Bruins fan. He is also a licensed amateur radio operator (K1IMW).

Mr. Ellis graduated from Sanborn Regional High School in Kingston, New Hampshire. He has a C.P. in Photography and an A.A.S. in General Technology from Mohave Community College in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. He also holds a B.S.Ed. in Physics from the College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences at Northern Arizona University. Currently, he is pursuing his Master’s in Astronomy Research.


I am so excited to be working at the high school in a math position. Teaching has been a passion of mine, but I did not start out as a career teacher.  Upon graduation from ASU I worked in the financial realm as a mortgage loan officer, as well as finishing out my commitment to the United States Naval Reserve. I have been teaching since 2008 and look forward to many more years in this career.
I moved to Strawberry in May of 2019, but have been in Arizona since I was 5 – before then, I lived in Ontario, Canada.  I am excited to live in the Payson area and explore all it has to offer. 🙂

Although I love math, students are always surprised that I don’t continue to do math problems at home.  In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and three kids, taking my dogs, Bruce (a Great Dane) and Stella (a lab/pointer/shepherd mix) on walks, reading, and playing mindless games on my IPad. Last year I discovered Audible, and can now multi-task these hobbies together, in addition to the chores I must get done.  🙂

I am excited about this school year, and look forward to getting to know each one of my students. 


Ted has been a resident of the Payson area since 1967 and graduated Payson High School in 1978. He attended Grand Canyon University from 1979 – 1985 receiving a BA in Religion with Minors in Social Studies and Behavioral Science in 1985. After receiving his Teaching Certificate in 1997 Ted taught Social Studies at Rim Country Middle School for 15 years before moving to Payson High School and then joined Payson Center for Success in 2011. Ted has a Masters in Educational Technology from GCU and just completed his Masters in Teaching American History and Government as well as working on two Doctorates in Higher Education Leadership and in Christian Theology. Ted says, “I have a passion for all things history, for encouraging students to think critically, be knowledgeable about their world, and to live with passion and respect for all around them.” A teacher presents the past, reveals the present, and creates the future!

Kim Blum


Kim is blessed to “be” the English department at Payson Center for Success for a sixth year. Prior to her time at PCS, she taught 7th grade English, speech/communications, and drama at Rim Country Middle School for 10 years. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her son, watching baseball and other sports, traveling near and far, and hiking with friends in the beautiful Rim country.

A good teacher is like a candle ~ it consumes itself to light to light the way for others.
~ Mustafa Kemal Ataturk


Meagan began her career in education in her hometown of Walnut, California. After high school, she relocated to Washington State where she taught preschool at Naval Station Everett. Since moving to Arizona, she has worked for Kyrene School District as a Program Coordinator and for Chandler Unified School District in the CTE Early Childhood Education department at Basha High School. Prior to becoming a Distance Learning teacher at Payson Center for Success, Meagan worked as an administrative secretary and as an attendance secretary at Payson High School for five years.

An alumnus of Central Arizona College, Meagan graduated in 2019 with an Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. She currently attends Northern Arizona University and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Career and Technical Education. She is a member of both Phi Theta Kappa and Golden Key International Honor Society.

Meagan is a mother of two and enjoys outings with her children. She is also an accomplished photographer. Her work received an award at the Phoenix College Western Eye Photography Competition and has also been featured in automotive publications.

PCS Registrar

Having lived in the Payson and Pine area for over 35 years, Laura has deep roots in the community that she loves. Laura is married to the love of her life, Dean Pederson, a longtime Pine resident and educator. Combined, her family consists of four adult children and eleven grandchildren (and growing). Grandchildren are the heart of the family. Laura enjoys archery hunting, fishing, kayaking, and travel. She has visited 22 countries and 44 states and would love to continue traveling and experiencing different cultures. Wherever Laura is, a book is always close at hand. Reading is her ultimate escape and passion; The Count of Monte Cristo is her favorite book. Laura has been an employee of PUSD for over 22 years. Her experience has taken her in many directions within the district but she is happiest as a support group facilitator, and distance learning registrar. She loves the relationships that she’s able to forge with the PCS students and shares in their joy when they graduate.

Rodney Huff

Office Tech

Rodney Huff started working for PUSD in February 2024 as an Office Tech I.

Rodney Huff was in the United States Air Force and was Honorably Discharged from Altus A.F.B. Oklahoma on March 24th,1995. (M.O.S 3P032 Security Forces)

Rodney Huff Honorably retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a Sergeant out of Lancaster Sheriff Station patrol on February 19th, 2022 with approximately 25 years of service. Rodney’s assignments included uniformed patrol, undercover narcotics (Sworn in with the Drug Enforcement Administration), gang enforcement with C.O.P.S. Bureau, Crime Impact Teams, Personnel Bureau, Sworn pre-employment background investigator as well as Custody assignments.

While employed by the Sheriff’s Department, Rodney volunteered to give narcotics classes to troubled youth who were enrolled in the V.I.D.A program. (Vital Intervention Directional Alternatives)

In his free time, Rodney enjoys motorcycle riding and volunteering with the American Legion Veterans Association in Payson Arizona POST #69. Rodney is a Legionnaire and the Director of the American Legion Riders, Payson Arizona, Post #69.



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