EDUCATION NOTES: Gibraltar School Looks Within for Interim Elementary Principal

The Gibraltar School Board is discussing “rightsizing” the school staff – reducing it to an optimal size – while continuing to offer as many programs to students as possible. While board members and educators continue to discuss what that will look like, the board wasted no time in reducing one administrative position.

Board members on Monday unanimously approved Superintendent Tina Van Meer’s proposal to hire an interim principal from within the current teaching force. During the past seven weeks, while the board has discussed combining some administrative duties and cutting one position, the district received resignation notices from middle school/high school Principal Gereon Methner, elementary school Principal Brian Annen and Director of Pupil Services Tim Mulrain.

Van Meer on Monday expressed how important it is to have administrators hired and ready to start work by July 1, if not before. Then the new administrators can prepare for their duties and assist in planning for the next school year. School board President Stephen Seyfer said Van Meer should be able to suggest a prospect for the secondary-school principal soon, and the board could call a special meeting Monday, June 21, to make a hire.

Van Meer said the district had a pool of 21 applicants for the middle school/high school principal position, and a team including teachers, support staff, administrators, parents and community members have been involved in reviewing six finalists.

With time of the essence, Van Meer suggested that the board hire an interim elementary principal/director of learning from within the teaching staff. She suggested that the board approve hiring current grade 6-12 reading specialist Lisa Wing, who already has the certification needed to serve as an elementary school principal. Wing has also nearly completed licensing requirements to serve as a director of curriculum. Van Meer said Wing’s familiarity with the staff, students and district should help with transitions to the next school year.

Van Meer also said Wing has been a Positive Behavior and Interventions coach, has been part of the Universal Design for Learning team for English and has served as a lead teacher for summer camp. Wing worked to foster collaboration at the district level in the Green Bay public schools as a Professional Learning Community adviser; she has worked with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction as part of the Educator Effectiveness Work Team; and she has been a member of the State Superintendent’s Council for Special Education as a teacher representative.

“Those are just some of the experiences she has taken on in leadership, whether it’s at the building level or at the state level,” Van Meer said of Wing.

Van Meer said the district already has several educators who have administration certificates. For instance, the board on Monday approved outgoing Principal Gereon Methner’s suggestion to hire a new secondary-school reading interventionist who has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and learning disabilities, as well as a master of education degree as a reading specialist, and who has current state licenses as a reading specialist, reading teacher, regular education teacher, special education teacher and director of instruction.

Rightsizing Doesn’t Equal Downsizing

Board members began discussions of rightsizing the school staff. The board is not looking at making drastic budget cuts, but rather, it’s evaluating how many educators, support-staff members and program leaders the district needs. Still, the district spends more per student than most districts in terms of academic, building, operations and transportation costs – more than $22,000, compared to the state average of a little more than $14,000 per student.

“This is an opportunity for board members to discuss [their] interests and concerns for a study of what is the right size of programming for Gibraltar school,” Seyfer said, noting that the board needs to discuss the possible effects those cuts could have. He said he cannot recall the district cutting any programs for financial reasons, but rather, for scarce interest, such as French.

Board member Mike Peot said Gibraltar offers more programs than students have time for. In many cases, students participate in sports events and practices, then rush to drama, choir or band practices and performances. Peot also said the district doesn’t need as many coaches and teams because it cannot field full junior-varsity and underclass teams in many sports.

Declining-Enrollment Trend

Gibraltar had an enrollment of 693 students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 2001, and it had 493 students this school year, with a projected enrollment of 458 for the next school year. In 2001, the district had four classrooms per grade level in elementary school and four sections of English, math and the like at the secondary level. The board has discussed cutting down to two sections for some grade levels. The average class sizes have decreased from about 51 per grade level to about 38 per grade level, Seyfer said.