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  • Schiebel

  • Ransom

  • Snodgrass

  • Miner

Sunday, August 13, 2017 1:00 am

Schools get started with new leaders

As students begin school year, many will have new principals

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Matt Schiebel is a veteran Fort Wayne Community Schools educator, but he's about to become a new face for many students.

The principal is among eight FWCS administrators reassigned to new schools for the upcoming academic year, which begins Tuesday.

Three middle schools (Lane, Kekionga and Shawnee) and five elementary schools (Arlington, Abbett, Lincoln, Harrison Hill and Shambaugh) have new principals.

Schiebel relocated to Kekionga from Shawnee, where he spent nine years. Kekionga's previous leader, an interim principal, moved to Shawnee.

A FWCS spokeswoman said the number of leadership changes isn't unusual for a district its size because retirements and other scenarios create vacancies.

Although the list of reassignments might look like the district is shuffling personnel, Krista Stockman said FWCS is “very intentional” when moving principals by trying to match their skills with a school's needs.

“It's rare that a principal is in a building for, you know, an entire career,” she said.

It's also not coincidence that the new building principals were existing FWCS employees, she said. The district has an administrative internship program.

“A number of years ago, we recognized if we didn't start training our own leaders that we would be stuck without quality people to lead our buildings,” Stockman said.

“By and large, the majority of our principals have been through our program, which really helps just set the tone for what Fort Wayne Community Schools believes is important in a leader.”

New building leaders are also taking over in the other Allen County school districts. East Allen County Schools has a new principal at New Haven Intermediate and Northwest Allen County Schools has a new principal at Perry Hill Elementary. Southwest Allen County Schools retained its principals, but its largest elementary school, Covington, is welcoming a new assistant principal.

Here's a look at some of the new faces students will see this year.

Kekionga Middle

Schiebel knows a thing or two about joining a new school. His career at FWCS has taken him to a number of middle schools – Blackhawk, Geyer, Lane, Northwood, Shawnee and now Kekionga, his third of which as principal.

“I've always been asked to move, but I've gone willingly,” he said. “If you're going to be a principal, one of your primary roles is to help your staff encounter change. If you as a leader are not able to change every few years, you're not modeling what you expect your staff to do on a yearly basis.”

But the change isn't without its challenges, Schiebel said, likening it to changing careers.

Last month, he got to know the Kekionga teachers in 30-minute one-on-one meetings, during which he asked about their families, their interests and their hobbies, he said.

He also wanted to know up to two things the school should continue doing and what it should stop. His previous experiences have taught him to prioritize a couple of immediate changes and wait until the second year to address long-term issues, he said.

Wherever he is, he said, he brings photographs of his family as a reminder why he works so hard.

His is a FWCS family. His daughter is a Ball State University-bound Snider High School graduate; his son is an incoming Snider junior; he and his wife are Snider grads; his father, a South Side High School grad, taught in FWCS for 37 years; and, he said, his mother taught at Glenwood Park Elementary School for a few years.

Sharing that with families helps him build trust with parents, he said.

“This school will be great for your kids,” he will say. “And it's great for mine, too.”

Covington Elementary

By early August, Ashley Ransom had personalized her office at Covington Elementary School with various decor, including a photograph of her children, Nolan, 5, and Carly, 3, but she doesn't plan to spend much time there.

Her work as assistant principal will take her elsewhere in the approximately 800-student school, she said, such as the playground at recess or outside to help students off buses.

“I'm really here to serve,” she said.

Ransom joins SACS with administrative experience. She previously was principal at Lincoln Elementary School in Huntington County Community Schools.

Meeting staff can be difficult in the summer, she said, but setting up the school's sensory room gave her a chance to get to know some teachers. She also used a yearbook to help familiarize herself with students and staff, she said.

“I'm just excited to be here,” she said, “excited about the opportunity.”

SACS begins school Wednesday.

New Haven Intermediate

Last week, Steve Snodgrass began his first school day as principal at New Haven Intermediate with bus duty, giving fist bumps and shaking hands.

He later visited classrooms to reintroduce himself to the students, for whom he had this message: Do your very best.

The introductions might have been unnecessary for some children, though.

Snodgrass has worked in EACS and lived in New Haven with his wife and daughters since 2007. He has been a teacher and head football coach at Heritage Junior-Senior High School, an administrative assistant at Southwick Elementary School and, most recently, an assistant principal at New Haven Middle School.

“More kids know who I am than what I might have thought even coming in,” he said.

Two emotions describe how he feels as principal, he said: excitement and humility. He is excited for the opportunity to make a bigger difference in children's lives, he said, and he is humble knowing he must orchestrate a strong team and keep them going in the right direction.

Perry Hill Elementary

Caleb Miner started his full-time teaching career at Northwest Allen County Schools, where he is returning after eight years at DeKalb County Central United Schools.

He was principal at Country Meadow Elementary School, a building he loved, he said, but it doesn't compare to NACS.

“Northwest has always been special to me,” the Perry Hill principal said. “This community is my home.”

The Huntertown resident has three children – a 2017 Carroll High School graduate, a middle school student and a student at Eel River Elementary – and knows other children in the district through church and youth athletics, he said.

He doesn't foresee drastic changes in Perry Hill's immediate future, Miner said. His plans include getting to know the students, who should expect to see him visiting their classes, he said.

“That's my escape, if you will,” the former sixth-grade language arts teacher said, noting he misses the classroom.

Miner is eager for Wednesday, the start of the academic year.

“I'm ready for the kids to come back,” he said.

asloboda@jg.net