A Talk with Gibraltar’s Next High School Principal: DeBroux bringing sports, teaching, activities leadership to Door County

Handling a new combination of duties while getting acquainted with the Gibraltar School District does not intimidate Gibraltar’s newly hired high school and middle school principal, James DeBroux.

In an effort to “rightsize” the administrative staff at Gibraltar, the school board this spring eliminated one leadership position and added some administrative duties from the athletic and activities office to the job description for the new secondary-school principal.

DeBroux not only has his administrative license (since the spring of 2020) and more than two decades of teaching social studies, history and economics, but he has also served as athletic and activities director at Random Lake High School for almost 10 years. In that capacity, he’d already gained some familiarity with Gibraltar’s athletic director (AD).

“The great thing about being an AD is [that] it’s a pretty close community, and when you work in a similar area like Peggy Tanck and I do, you get to know each other and have a working relationship,” DeBroux said. “It’s fully my intent that Peggy and I will be working side by side to get everything squared away in the world of activities.”

Gibraltar’s job posting piqued DeBroux’s interest.

“Of the many [openings] that were out there this spring, this was one of the better fits,” he said. “I’ve spent a couple of decades in a really great, progressive community school, and for my next stop in my journey, I was hoping to have another school that’s at the center of a community. Clearly that’s the story there at Gibraltar. It was a heck of an exciting opportunity, and I’m just flattered to be chosen.”

DeBroux was already familiar with the beauty of Door County, and he said – as he has told Tanck – that he has never had anything but than positive experiences with the students and staff at Gibraltar.

When asked whether he was aware of community members expressing concern about teacher turnover and declining enrollment during the past few school years, DeBroux said those issues are not unique to Gibraltar.

“I’ve been in a declining-enrollment district the last several decades,” he said. “There’s tough stuff, [and] 2020 was a tough year in general. It’s been a time when people are digging deep and questioning; every school is going to have things to work through. But I think the staff and the community will find out I’m a people person and really value staff collaboration.”

Random Lake recently did some administrative downsizing, so DeBroux knew he would need to move to gain a position as a principal or curriculum leader.

He said he’s hoping for a school year when he can dedicate a greater proportion of time to helping educators and students than he did in 2020-21, when he and school staff members nationwide had to handle many time-consuming health, safety and prevention measures and do contact tracing.

DeBroux has two grown children and one in college. He and his wife want to move to Door County soon, but finding a long-term home here at this moment doesn’t seem realistic to him.

“Lots of people want to be in Door County in July,” DeBroux said.

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