New London’s new school administrator has tapped in-house talent for a series of job openings created by her own move.
A district-wide job shuffle puts new people in nine of 13 positions on the administrative team. Three of the nine are new hires to the district.
When the New London Board of Education chose Kathy Gwidt to replace retiring administrator Bill Fitzpatrick, that left Gwidt’s job of director of teaching and learning vacant.
The retirement of Ann Christopherson left a second of three director posts, pupil services, vacant. The resignation of Scott Eggart, assistant principal of New London High School and athletic director, opened another administrative post.
At the school board meeting on Monday, June 24, Gwidt announced that Parkview Elementary School principal Jo Collar would be the new teaching and learning director.
It was just the start of what Gwidt described as the “most fun agenda item I might have in my entire life.”
In considering who could fill her former shoes, Gwidt said she had in mind all along whether the district had someone homegrown. The same outlook led to other changes for the 2013-14 school year.
• Joe Green, principal of the New London Intermediate/Middle School, will take over for Collar as principal at Parkview.
• Pete Schulz, principal at Lincoln Elementary School, will move to principal of the intermediate/middle school.
• Eggart left the district for a fulltime athletic director job at West De Pere. His former duties have been separated.
• Danielle Sievert, now dean of students and literacy coach at the middle school, will be associate principal at the high school.
• Pam Steiger will be principal of the freshmen academy and athletic director. She had been in charge of the freshmen academy and assisted with middle school sports, but this was not an administrative contract, according to Gwidt.
For two openings left by this internal shuffle, the district tapped two people who had been interviewed for Gwidt’s job.
Megan Yeska will be a dean of students for the intermediate/middle school. Yeska has worked in the Waupaca and Manawa school districts in varied leadership roles, including dean of students and principal, according to Gwidt.
Kirk Delwiche, currently elementary principal at Weyawega/Fremont, has accepted the job as Lincoln principal. School board members have indicated they will approve the hiring, according to Gwidt.
The new director of pupil services will be Laurie Schmidt. She is currently director of pupil services and instruction at Winneconne.
The four administrators staying in their jobs are Joe Marquardt, director of business services; Joe Pomrening, high school principal; Ann Pinch, dean of students at the intermediate/middle school; and Kristin Grable, principal of Readfield and Sugar Bush elementary schools.
The people available for interviews last week about their job changes expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities. They admit there are trade-offs, and they’ll miss some aspects of their current jobs.
Steiger may be making the biggest sacrifice. She’s ending a second career of 33 years as referee and umpire for high school basketball, baseball and softball.
Gwidt noted there would be a conflict of interest for an athletic director – who has a vested interest in the success of her district teams – to officiate for her team or other teams competing for the same titles.
Steiger leaves on a high note: Steiger was recently named umpire of the year for the region. That honor gave her the opportunity to officiate at three games during the All-Star Classics, held June 13 in Wisconsin Dells.
Steiger and her husband have officiated together all those years.
“It’s been not just another career for me, but a thing I do with my husband,” she said on Wednesday, June 26.
That second career often included 30 basketball games a season, traveling in winter weather as far as Marinette or Campbellsport. Softball and baseball seasons added a total of another 30 games.
“I’m giving it up for my job,” said Steiger, who played basketball and softball in college. “I’ve always loved sports my whole life, but academics are No. 1. They have to be.”
Steiger said she began working on her master’s degree and principal’s license in 2001. Fitzpatrick encouraged and mentored her over the years.
“This has kind of always been my dream to do this,” she said.
She relishes the opportunity to stay involved in sports. Overseeing middle school athletics didn’t involve hiring coaches or budgeting, and “middle school kids don’t get in too much trouble; high school kids is another story,” she said.
Sports helps students stay focused on academics, Steiger said. They have to keep their grades up to play, and when academics get stressful, sports offers an outlet.
“As a freshmen dean of students the last three years, I try to get every freshman kid to join at least one club or athletics,” she said.
Steiger has worked for the district for 17 years, many of them teaching seventh and eighth grade social studies.
Schulz returns to familiar territory at the intermediate/middle school.
He’s been principal at Lincoln for five years, but for nine years before that, he was associate principal at the middle school.
In addition, he’ll see his Lincoln students and parents for a number of years to come as they move up to the intermediate/middle school.
Schulz said he loved his years at the middle school and, when he was asked if he would consider going back, said, “Whatever’s best for the district.”
Gwidt described Shulz as a “relationship guy” well loved at school.
“I knew he would be excited about a change, to go up to the middle school at a different capacity,” she said.
Gwidt explained Green’s switch from middle school to elementary principal as a career move. His experience, as classroom teacher and administrator, has been in middle school.
His long-term goal, according to Gwidt, is to serve as a district administrator – which requires a variety of experiences.
Green was at a technology conference in Texas when these job changes were announced and unavailable for comment.
Sievert’s strengths lie in literacy and her connections with students and families, according to Gwidt.
“She has been so successful working with at-risk populations,” she said.
Collar, principal at Parkview for the past 14 years, is eager to tackle new challenges of K-12 curriculum, but said it’s not easy to leave a great staff, families and students.
“That was the part that kind of tugged at my heart: Are you ready to leave the kids?” she said Thursday, June 27.
Collar didn’t apply for the new job; Gwidt came to her and asked if she was interested in it.
“I knew sometimes when you’ve been in a position for a long time … you think, before you decide to retire, wouldn’t it be great to explore and expand,” Collar said.
She started her career teaching high school special education, and was an elementary principal for 10 years before she came to Parkview. Now, she’s excited for the new change.
“I think that we have one of the strongest administrative teams that we’ve had in the 14 years I’ve been here. I think shifting a little bit has really made our team even stronger,” Collar said. “I’m just excited for … the opportunity to grow professionally and personally in this new role.”
Gwidt credits her years in the district with allowing her to assemble this team.
“The foundation of being able to orchestrate these moves is knowing the people,” she said. “It’s just so great that I have worked in New London for quite some time before. If I hadn’t, I would not have been able to put this team together.”