Sturgeon Bay Turns Smullens into Two-principal Household

Gibraltar hires new superintendent

Like many mothers who are educators by profession, Katie Smullen cut way back on her involvement at school and focused on her children when they were very young. But after daughters Annabel and Abby reached school age two years ago, Smullen returned to the classroom to teach fourth-grade students.

Katie Smullen was recently hired as the new principal for Sturgeon Bay’s Sunrise Elementary School.

Next year, she will return to an administrative position for the first time in six years after the Sturgeon Bay school board this month approved hiring her as the Sunrise Elementary principal to replace Brian O’Handley.

Smullen spent seven years as an administrator – as an assistant principal at two Beloit schools and then as principal at Beloit’s Merrill Elementary. Then, when her youngest daughter, Annabel, was six months old, her husband, Mark, took the job as assistant principal at Sturgeon Bay’s T.J. Walker Middle School, and Smullen focused on motherhood.

She said she was grateful for the opportunity to move to Door County, where she and her family vacationed some summers and winter holidays when she was growing up in Beloit. Smullen was grateful for opportunities to do part-time work in fund development for United Way and as a student-support specialist at the community college in Sturgeon Bay until returning to the classroom.

And now, Smullen said, community programs and activities for their daughters – as well as “great babysitters” for school-board meeting nights, and her husband’s parents, who are here in the summer – are making it possible for her and her husband to both work as principals in the district.

“We’re very thankful for a community that has after-school programs that are great, like the Boys and Girls Club,” she said. “Both of our girls love going there – and the YMCA. They’re very involved in swimming and gymnastics and art classes over there. I don’t think we could do it without that support.”

Smullen said she loves her role as a teacher and felt that going into administration would multiply her impact.

“As a teacher, you help students realize their potential,” she said. “It’s such good and important work. As a principal, you can help teachers grow and realize their potential, thereby impacting more and more students.”

A principal also must serve as an advocate for students and families, she said, helping to connect families and students with the many available resources in the county and at the school.

Smullen said the Sunrise staff is working hard to help students become good readers, good leaders and good stewards of the Earth.

“I feel like right now the district is on this great journey,” she said.

Sturgeon Bay Schools Superintendent Dan Tjernagel said the district received 30 applications for the position and formally interviewed five candidates, with Smullen rising to the top.

Also this month, Tjernagel recommended that the board hire eighth-year district employee Jen Paye-Weber as director of teaching, learning and technology; Jenna Augustson as a high school English teacher after working in the Oshkosh Area School District; and Josh Hawbaker as a new high school math teacher.

Gibraltar Approves Contract for New Superintendent

On Monday, the Gibraltar Area School Board unanimously approved the $170,000-per-year contract for a new superintendent, Brett Stousland. He had previously served as superintendent in Verona, and for the past two years, as superintendent of the 4,000-student Germantown district. 

Board president Stephen Seyfer said he spoke to many educators and administrators in central and southeastern Wisconsin who spoke highly of Stousland, and that Stousland was the district search committee’s top choice.

Also Monday, the Gibraltar school board approved a resignation, for purposes of retirement, of business manager Arba LeClair, who has worked for the district for 19 years. Outgoing Superintendent Tina Van Meer said LeClair has been a great resource to her and an invaluable manager of financial matters for the district.

More Light Shed on Southern Door Capital Vision

Southern Door School District residents will soon be asked to weigh in on proposals and provide additional ideas for improvements to school facilities and grounds. Just a few of the targets for improvement include renovating the elementary and middle school art rooms, the middle school and high school family and consumer-science classrooms, and improvements to the high school agriculture room and facilities, to include a new greenhouse and live-animal space.

Also on the initial list are high school tech-ed department improvements, a new bus garage, an expanded fitness center, an indoor training facility and improvements to the baseball and softball fields.

Finally, district officials identified a need for improved parking in front of the building, which may require relocation of the district office, according to Superintendent Chris Peterson.

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