Island Principal Job Stirs Interest

Washington Island newcomer jumps at the chance to lead

The finalists who submitted applications to serve as the next principal of the Washington Island School District had a wide range of experiences and areas of expertise, but they had one thing in common: Two extremely challenging years of the pandemic caused candidates to reassess their lives and goals, said Kirsten Purinton, school board president. Suddenly, joining the administrative team and directing the curricula at a tiny school on an island sounded appealing.

“The island community is smaller than every other school district in Wisconsin, so I think there was some appeal,” Purinton said. “Many of them had ties to Door County.” 

The district’s school- and community-based search committee received applications from 28 qualified candidates. It narrowed down the list, interviewed four finalists and received an accepted offer in April from its first choice, Tim Verboomen.

Tim Verboomen

“I’ve been on the board for nine years, and we’ve hired multiple administrators since I joined the board,” Purinton said. “This was the best pool of applicants we’ve had apply for an administrative position, and they were highly qualified. Tim was very enthusiastic and positive.”

Verboomen completed his administrative licensing several years ago and made the leap less than a year ago from teaching in Neenah to teaching on Washington Island.

Verbooomen said he and his family moved to the island in July of last year. It was a place they had often visited during the winter or spring break. His wife, Jenni, works as assistant director of affordability operations for a company that helps health organizations hold down costs, so they could live and work anywhere in the world and chose Washington Island.  

“This is exactly the kind of community we wanted to come to,” said Verboomen, who loves hiking, biking, camping, fishing, skiing and riding snowmobiles and ATVs. “It wasn’t about the water or the scenery; it was really about the community. We chose it and went for it. We moved here and thankfully made a successful bid on one of the two houses that were available on the island at the time.”

Before teaching in Neenah and the island, Verboomen taught and did educational consulting work in Germany; Washington, D.C.; Texas and Hawaii. Those moves took place as Jenni served for 20 years as an Army nurse. Verboomen could have pursued administrative positions before, but he focused on being a dad to his sons, Morgen, now 20; Brennan, who’s 19 and training to be a fire department medic in California; and eighth-grader Collin.

Verboomen said he can bike or walk to school and to the downtown area because their home sits “in the middle of nowhere but the middle of everything” – midway between the business district and school.

Verboomen teaches middle school science and social studies and loves the way the school integrates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and curricula. He has teaching experience at all grade levels and also gained staff-development skills through his consulting work.

Verboomen said things keep happening lately that seem “meant to be,” including this chance to help lead “what I think is an amazing school –  an amazing opportunity to lead an amazing school.”

During the pandemic, people became more isolated, so he hopes to reestablish partnerships between the community and families.

Washington Island will lose a science and social studies teacher, but Purinton said that job opening should draw interest, too, especially because of some of the creative programming and curricula already in place at the school.

“The administration and board have been very supportive of those enriching STEM experiences for our children,” Purinton said. “I would hope that would excite people who are vying for the position.”

Home-schooled Students Invited Back to School

The Washington Island School District welcomes students who are home-schooled or who take school through online educational programming to attend the district’s school for two periods a day for physical education and art classes.

“We would be more than happy to have them back in the school,” Purinton said.

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