Five Garden City USD 457 schools will begin the academic year with new principals after four district building leaders retired or resigned last year.

By the end of the 2017-18 school year, Gertrude Walker Elementary School Principal Phillip Keidel and Garden City Alternative Education Center Principal Mark Ronn retired, while Abe Hubert Elementary School Principal Martha Darter and Bernadine Sitts Intermediate Center Principal Deznee Soza resigned.

The departures caused shake-ups at five, rather than four, schools, after Josh Guymon, then principal at Garfield Early Childhood Center, was named Darter’s replacement at AHES.

USD 457 Deputy Superintendent Heath Hogan said this year’s high turnover was merely the result of many former employees deciding to change or close their careers at once, rather than anything specific at the district.

“I think at this juncture, there’s a lot of opportunities for people to go and explore and try and do new things, so I think that’s probably the biggest factor right now. We had a couple people that were at the point where they wanted to complete their careers, and two others that wanted to go try new things,” Hogan said.

As the district approaches the 2018-19 school year, all principal positions have been filled, some internally and others by educational professionals from across the state. Apart from Guymon, all the new hires will be first-year principals.

Hogan said all positions were open to internal and external candidates, and staff members were able to offer input regarding building priorities and challenges. He said in all cases, the district hired “the best person for the job” and matched people to the needs of their building.

Andrea Baker will fill Guymon’s role as GECC principal, moving up from a teaching position at the center. Gina Galpin also was promoted internally, transferring from a literacy and math coach at Alta Brown, Jennie Wilson and Florence Wilson elementary schools to principal of BSIC.

Galpin has worked in education for 24 years, she said, teaching first and fifth grade and English as a Second Language classes in Omaha, Neb., and special education, literacy and math at USD 457. Stepping into a principal role is the culmination of years of building leadership experience in both districts, including completing a master’s in leadership from Fort Hays State University, she said.

Galpin said she had long heard of BSIC’s commitment to community involvement and family engagement and was interested in building off the school’s “strong foundation.”

“With my instructional coaching background, I definitely have the intention to come in and support teachers and be an instructional leader … I want to ensure that we’re making the best choices, doing what’s best for kids and providing the best instruction we possibly can to meet their needs,” Galpin said.

New principals also were hired from outside the district: Mark Felvus to head the Alternative Education Center and Amy Hollingsworth to lead GWES.

Felvus comes from a teaching and counseling background, teaching P.E., world geography and first grade at Chapman USD 473 and spending several years as a counselor in Clay Center USD 379 and Marion-Florence USD 408.

Felvus said he took a break from education midway through his career, managing a Mr. Goodcents in Junction City. Feeling like he wasn’t following his passion to help and mentor kids, he earned his master’s degree in counseling at Kansas State University, later following it up with a master’s in administration at Emporia State University. The principal position allowed him to combine both degrees to create an environment that could bolster struggling students, he said.

“I’m doing the administrative stuff, but I also get to do the counseling stuff and help kids that maybe are behind on credits or who maybe have had a little rougher path in life. They just need that advocate. Every child needs a cheerleader to support them and let them know tomorrow’s a new day,” Felvus said.

Hollingsworth taught elementary and middle school students in Dodge City USD 443 and Copeland USD 476 and worked as an instructional coach at USD 443. In an interview with the Telegram in June, she said her background gave her insight into what parents and teachers wanted and needed from administrators, and that building relationships with her staff, students and parents would be a top priority.

She said she would work with the school to correct any issues and was excited about the district’s expanded literacy education plan for the upcoming school year. As for the open classroom structure of GWES, she said she was eager to be a part of it.

“I just fell in love with it immediately. In fact, if they didn’t offer me the contract I was going to look for another school like that,” Hollingsworth said in June.

The district has filled other leadership positions, as well. Jennie Barker Elementary School Principal Karen Murrell also will serve as associate principal at AHES this year, and Plymell Elementary School Principal Linda Finch will be an associate principal at Alta Brown Elementary School.

District employees Brandy Ochs and Amy Ricks will be Administrator Teacher on Special Assignment, or TOSAs, in the upcoming school year, Ochs at Florence Wilson and Victor Ornelas elementary schools and Ricks at BSIC and Charles O. Stones Intermediate Center. Ochs is moving from a district literacy coach position and Ricks from a teaching position at CSIC.

 

Contact Amber Friend at afriend@gctelegram.com.