Schmidt embraces new opportunity
The 2017-18 school year will bring with it a transformed Wood Middle School and, as of July 13, a new principal too. That new school leader is Kelly Schmidt, who comes to Wood after spending the past six years as principal of Gardiner Middle School in Oregon City.
Schmidt will fill the void left by former Principal Jim Severson, who announced he was leaving the school back in June. The hire couldn't come at a better time, considering the precarious transition period Wood finds itself in. With a new middle school just down the road in Meridian Creek, Wilsonville's existing middle school will employ fewer teachers and a smaller student body.
The portables are gone, but change inevitably brings adjustment for staff and students. Schmidt says she's up for the challenge. In fact, Wood's shifting landscape was a big reason she decided to leave her prior position in the first place.
"When this position opened up I saw a school going through this reorganization, and I knew that I had done the same thing in Oregon City," Schmidt says. "In my first year as principal at Gardiner, they brought sixth-graders up to the middle school, so we kind of did the opposite where we brought in another grade level, additional teachers, and kind of did some reconfiguration there as well."
Schmidt sees an opportunity for Wood to do a bit of reinventing, allowing the school to reset and prioritize school practices students and staff want to focus on going forward.
"I think we're down about 275 kids from last year, and so we're going to spend some time with staff between now and the beginning of the school year really looking at what they want Wood Middle School to be moving forward," she says. "It's a great opportunity as a small community to kind of redefine ourselves, take the things that are great about this school and build on them."
Schmidt, who lives in West Linn and has two daughters in West Linn-Wilsonville schools, earned her bachelor's degree from Oregon State University in public health, but went straight into a master's program for teaching after realizing education was what she wanted to do. She says impacting people's lives was always a goal of hers, and she's found during 20 years of teaching that middle school is the perfect level for her.
Schmidt began teaching in the Oregon City School District following school — she also completed administrative work at Lewis and Clark and Portland State University — spending 10 years there before accepting an assistant principal position at Ackerman Middle School in Canby. She returned to Gardiner Middle School two years later, where she's been ever since, and says her own transition between school districts will aid her in her first year at Wood.
"I first got into education because I wanted to make an impact on people while they were young and impressionable, and I think the same thing happened to me with teaching in administration," Schmidt says. "I saw the opportunity to affect school systems system-wide, and to positively help shape the culture. Middle school kids are amazing young people that I think have this potential that often is underestimated.
"To me the energy that they bring and the potential that they have to really positively impact communities is something that I want to try to harness."
It's only been a couple weeks since Schmidt was hired, and she's spent that time getting to know her new building and plan for the school year. She says she hopes to meet with every teacher individually before school starts so that she can get a better feel for what goals are for the coming school year and into the future.
She's already met with WL-WV middle school principals Debi Briggs-Crispin, Joel Sebastian and Annikke Olson, and says she's looking forward to collaborating with others throughout the district. While her initial emphasis will be around getting the school year off and running, she and Olson plan to coordinate events between Meridian Creek and Wood down the road.
"That's another thing that appealed to me about to this district, coming from a district with only two middle schools to a district with four, is just having a bigger team to collaborate with," Schmidt says. "We haven't ventured down that path too far about what we can do with Meridian Creek in terms of partnership, but it's a great opportunity. Especially in this community that is the right size with kids who have been in both places, that's something we'll look to do."
Another change Wood will see in the future is the addition of the district's Dual Language Program, when participating students at Lowrie Primary graduate to sixth grade. Those students will be fifth-graders this year, meaning that change will take place in two years' time, but Schmidt has experience with Gardiner's dual language program that she thinks will help the future transition.
She's also looking forward to some changes to the building that are underway this summer — including the repaving of the parking lot, a new roof, updated bathrooms and new carpets, among other remodeling work.
But, more than anything, Gardiner is looking forward to meeting her students on the first day of school Aug. 29.
"I think middle school kids, more than anything, want to add value to their community. They're so impacted by their peers and the social demands that are placed upon them, I think more than anything they want to contribute, and it's just a matter of finding a place for them to belong and ways they can contribute to their school and their community," Schmidt says. "To me, middle school is all about finding the best ways to get as many kids involved and connected to school as possible."