Gibraltar School Board Determines Interim Principal Not Needed

The Gibraltar School Board has been forced to make administrative changes in light of the immediate and unexpected resignation of secondary school principal Kirk Knutson in November. The board sought suggestions from faculty, staff and the community on how to proceed with the absent position. A survey was sent to secondary school faculty and staff asking for their input on the situation moving forward.

Before any measures are taken to put a new principal in place, elementary school principal Brian Annen has taken over the duties of the secondary school principal, now serving kindergarten through 12th grade. Dean of Students Tim Mulrain aids Annen while Shaun Young is helping with students requiring individualized education programs. Annen and Mulrain split their time between the elementary and secondary education administration offices.

In deciding how to move forward, board President Fred Anderson listed their options at the open meeting held Dec. 22. The list includes hiring an interim principal, finding the best candidate at the present time, hiring an intern with the possibility of employment following the school year or hiring a second Dean of Students for better support through the elementary and secondary school.

The most discussed option was the idea of hiring an interim principal and most board members saw this as unnecessary. “An interim principal rushed in here would cause more harm than good,” said board member Suzanne Brennan, speaking to the staff that would have to adjust to a new administrator only to be changed again at the end of the school year.

A survey taken by the faculty and staff members in the secondary school reinforced the concerns of the school board on hiring an interim principal. The survey was given to all staff and faculty and about one third completed the survey.

“A vast majority said no interim principal is needed,” said Superintendent Tina Van Meer. Van Meer expressed interest in the hiring of a new administrator for the next school year, “hoping we can get started in February with that process.”

Without an interim principal and with several administrators taking on extra roles to fill the absence, board member Wendy Minten cited concerns from faculty in the survey that they were seeing their coworkers “feeling stretched.”

Brennan was also disappointed in the number of faculty that did not respond to the survey. The board brought up a lack of trust between the school board and the faculty members as a reason behind the low response rate.

“If it’s fear then we still have something to address. It says to me, ‘Did they not trust the board?’” said Brennan.

Faculty member Evelyn Eckhardt sent a letter to the board in lieu of the survey and stated at the meeting on Monday, “I think teachers are scared to express their opinion.”

Mulrain and Annen both reported hearing no concerns from faculty or students about the way the administrative changes were going and all questions arising in Knutson’s departure are being addressed. Annen will visit each classroom at the secondary school to field questions from the students regarding the changes being made.