As the 2018-19 school year drew to a close, administrators in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District started summer with a game of musical chairs — but it was one with no losers.
Not every school will be impacted, but come August, community members will welcome six new principals, three new vice principals and three new instructional coordinators to the district. Additionally, an internal candidate may be hired to replace former Boones Ferry Principal Angela Freeman, who recently took a leadership position in the Reynolds School District. The district is considering a wide range of external and internal candidates though, and her replacement has not yet been announced.
"We've had a whole lot of tenured principals who kind of came up together and are now kind of retiring, more or less," said WL-WV Communications Director Andrew Kilstrom. "So it's kind of a new wave almost. I don't expect this to happen again next year."
Eight of the 12 new leadership roles are being filled by existing district employees.
"You move one person from an instructional coordinator role to principal role and now you have to find someone to fill that instructional coordinator role. Sometimes it's an internal candidate again, and then you have to fill that position," Kilstrom said. "That adds to the workload (but) thankfully in the industry like K-12 public education, you do have the summer months when school is not in session and you have some time to make sure you're finding the best candidates, the right candidates, and do it thoughtfully."
Last year, the school district hired two new principals — one at Lowrie Primary and one at West Linn High School — so Kilstrom considers six a high turnover. He said some years there are no new principals hired.
"We're sad but happy for our retiring principals who had a long tenure in our school district. Anytime we have a principal who takes on a new opportunity, a new leadership role in another school district, we're happy for them and we want to provide opportunities for people to grow," Kilstrom said. "That's part of a professional career, taking on those new challenges. We're happy they were able to find success in our school district, and it's kind of a reflection of the high quality staff we have too, I think."
Kelly Schmidt is WHS's new principal; Mike Strande — an external candidate from the Hillsboro School District — is the new head of Inza R. Wood Middle School.Edgar Solares Vega takes the helm at Bolton Primary; Meg Leonard is Cedaroak Park Primary's new principal; Kate Donegan leads Trillium Creek, and the school district is in the interview process to fill Freeman's position.
"We do fairly frequently hire internally for new principals," Kilstrom said. "I think that's because we are kind of known for professional development. That is a huge thing for us, and we hire ambitious, talented people who aspire to be leaders."
While this presents more vacancies to fill, there are benefits to hiring internal candidates.
Schmidt, former principal at Wood, said that as an internal hire she doesn't have to spend as much time learning how the district operates and she already has solid relationships with staff, school board members and administrators.
"In my case, I spent a significant amount of time in the spring, before and after school hours, meeting with the staff at Wilsonville High School. Because I was already a part of the organization and it was something we prioritized together, I was supported in my plan to begin better understanding the new school I was moving to," Schmidt said in an email. "In these conversations I was able to meet staff, in their classrooms/spaces and understand their roles, their greatest joys and pillars of greatness within the school, and also where they had concerns and saw opportunities for growth and improvement. I was able to meet with more than half of the teachers, all of the administrators and counselors, and all office staff members."
Similarly, Kelly Rogers, former instructional coordinator at Bolton, is Rosemont Ridge Middle School's new assistant principal. He said after having worked for the WL-WV School District since 2000, he's looking forward to continuing to work with students and families he knows, while still meeting new families who are part of the Rosemont Ridge community.
Kilstrom said he is looking forward to having the new principals and other leaders hit the ground running.
"I think they all are going to bring some fresh perspective, fresh ideas," he said. "We really are sad to see longtime professionals such as Holly and Carolyn leave for retirement, but it's exciting, too."
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